To read this content please select one of the options below:

The “dark side” of food banks? Exploring emotional responses of food bank receivers in the Netherlands

Hilje van der Horst (Sociology of Consumers and Households, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Stefano Pascucci (Management Studies, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Wilma Bol (Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 26 August 2014




The purpose of this paper is to address how food, social status as well as the interactions at the food bank induce emotions in receivers, such as shame, gratitude and anger. Since early 2000s a steadily growing number of low-income and/or over-indebted households in the Netherlands alleviate their situation with food donations from local food banks. Such food banks collect from companies edible food that would otherwise have gone to waste. The growing demand for food assistance indicates it is a welcome contribution to the groceries in many households. However, receiving food assistance as well as eating the products forces the receivers to set aside embodied dispositions towards food and norms about how to obtain food. Furthermore, it places them in interactions of charitable giving that may be harmful to the self-esteem of receivers.


The paper is based on a qualitative study at a food bank in the Netherlands, consisting among others of in-depth interviews with 17 receivers of food assistance, observations and several interviews with volunteers.


Of all emotions that were expressed during the interviews, shame appeared as the most prominent. Particularly issues of shame emerged in relation to all three food-bank-related experiences: the content of the crate, the interaction with volunteers and lastly the understanding of one's positioning in a social hierarchy. While shame can be a very private emotion – even talking about being ashamed can be shameful – it is also an utterly social emotion.


This research is among the few ones explicitly addressing emotional emotions related to receivers in food bank.



van der Horst, H., Pascucci, S. and Bol, W. (2014), "The “dark side” of food banks? Exploring emotional responses of food bank receivers in the Netherlands", British Food Journal, Vol. 116 No. 9, pp. 1506-1520.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles