Community food providers as a response to food poverty : an institutional theory perspective

  • Kathryn Gordon

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Food poverty contravenes the human right to food. Its existence in the UK has led to emotive calls for interventions to address this pressing social issue. It is widely recognised that the State bears the duty to ensure households have adequate income to protect them from food poverty. However, alongside the State a network of other actors may play a role in tackling food poverty. Third-sector community food providers are one such actor however their place, efficacy, and role in a response to food poverty is debated within and outside the field. Therefore, this study aims to explore the role of community food providers as a response to food poverty. A quasi-ethnography is undertaken with 16 grassroots organizations, operating in the central belt of Scotland, and 5 meso level support organizations. Data collected from June 2018 to March 2019 are analysed using institutional theory. Insight on the forms, functions, and services of these organizations highlights that the name ‘community food providers’ belies both their heterogeneity and scope. Many offer services that extend beyond the provision of food. The heterogeneity, in part, arises from the multiplicity of logics instantiated in their day-to-day practices. Some of these practices incorporate institutional work, a means of achieving institutional change. This includes several forms of advocacy, targeted at different audiences. The thesis contributes to knowledge on community food providers and adds to debates on their efficacy and appropriateness in a response to food poverty. It also highlights two institutional orders that are largely omitted from existing third sector scholarship and responds to calls to explore how multiple logics are instantiated within organizations. The thesis also challenges dichotomous presentations of services provision and advocacy, adding to a small body of literature that suggests the two can occur concurrently. These contributions are relevant for theory, policy, and practice.
Date of Award19 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorJuliette Wilson (Supervisor) & Eleanor Shaw (Supervisor)

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