City Research Online

Overcoming the social stigma of consuming food waste by dining at the Open Table

Edwards, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-0389-193X (2020). Overcoming the social stigma of consuming food waste by dining at the Open Table. Agriculture and Human Values, 38(2), pp. 397-409. doi: 10.1007/s10460-020-10176-9


Stigma is often encountered by recipients who receive food donations from charities, while the consumption of wasted food, also traditionally considered to be a stigmatized practice, has recently become part of a popular food rescue movement that seeks to reduce environmental impacts. These two stigmas—charitable donation and the consumption of waste—are brought together at the Open Table, a community group in Melbourne, Australia, that serves community meals cooked from surplus food. This paper examines how Open Table de-stigmatizes food donations through food waste discourse to enable greater social inclusion. I draw on the experiences of donors, cooks, volunteers and eaters gathered from diverse Open Table sites. Taking a ‘follow-the-thing’ approach, I analyze how food ‘waste’ becomes re-valued by embracing goals of environmental justice enacted through local processes of care and conviviality. Relying on networks of volunteers and not-for-profit agencies, Open Table provides a simple, effective and adaptable model for possible replication for overcoming drawbacks of traditional charity practices. Critically though, as hunger in society continues to grow, this approach is increasingly threatened by the need to ‘single out’ disadvantaged recipients to justify continued supply. This paper contributes to food poverty, waste, and Alternative Food Network literature in two important ways: first, by analyzing the outcomes of community food redistribution approaches with regards to stigma and inclusion; and secondly, by arguing that such holistic approaches need to be acknowledged, valued and supported to shift current discourses and practice.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Food rescue, Food sharing, Donation, Charity, Care, Alternative food network
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
SWORD Depositor:
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