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

“We'll go back to a system you really do not like!” Organizational norms and structural violence in a British foodbank

Amanda Elizabeth Bruck (Social and Cultural Anthropology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain)
Kayleigh Garthwaite (School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 16 December 2020

Issue publication date: 29 July 2021



We explore how neoliberal logic has led to an erosion of social-welfare programs and pervades organizational structures and functions of a third-sector organization. Based upon fieldwork in a foodbank in the North-West of England, we discuss the impact of economic cuts upon organizational norms of the foodbank, and the intersection with the provision of charity support and personal relationships between the staff, volunteers and visitors.


This article analyses pervasiveness of neoliberalism on a foodbank and the impact this has on organizational norms and relationships found within the organization. It integrates themes of structural violence, neoliberal discourse in the charity sector, notions of (un)deservingness and appropriate of time.


Our research finds how a hostile environment transpires in a third-sector organization under increased economic and bureaucratic pressures and from this, organizational rules emerge that ignore the lived experiences of the people it serves. Herein, visitors must learn the organization's norms and garner relationships to be able to navigate the organization to successfully access essential resources.


The findings in this article will be of interest to academics researching poverty and organizational norms, professionals in the charity-sector and policy makers. Rules originating from economic and bureaucratic pressures can establish barriers to accessing essential material resources. It informs the pressures felt in balancing access to support services with personal timetables, and the need to include visitors' voices in establishing norms.



Bruck, A.E. and Garthwaite, K. (2021), "“We'll go back to a system you really do not like!” Organizational norms and structural violence in a British foodbank", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 156-170.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited