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Shifting the Narrative: Charity to Food Justice

January 1, 2020 - January 1, 2021

This project was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research results were rolled into a larger survey of emergency food assistance organizations.

Currently, most efforts to address hunger focus on food provision to those in need. While this is critically essential aid, we must also address the systemic issues related to race, poverty, and power that cause hunger. This project will explore shifting the narrative and solution set in the fight to end hunger from charity to a broader toolkit that addresses the root causes of food insecurity and will present opportunities for stakeholders to align action for a more significant impact.

The project goal of this project is to support a shift in hunger relief work from being charity-oriented to an increased focus on justice and community ownership. To do this, we will illustrate how the current system and actors –academia, philanthropy, nonprofits, the faith community, and governmental organizations—reinforce a fundamentally charity-focused model. Then, we will identify the research, stakeholders, messages, and context needed to shift our collective orientation from feeding people to systems shifts where people thrive.

Planned Products:

  • A report summarizing stakeholder interviews to frame the current food insecurity/hunger narrative on a charity to justice spectrum, and to identify areas of potential momentum to shift that narrative.
  • A roundtable convening in Washington, DC, bringing together key stakeholders to discuss roles and opportunities in narrative shift and action.
  • Case study analyses of charity and justice in the food insecurity/hunger space
  • Recommendations for narrative shifting messaging and outreach



  • Jen Zuckerman, Duke WFPC
  • Sarah Zoubek, Duke, WFPC
  • Deborah Hill, Duke WFPC
  • Heather Street, Congressional Hunger Fellows
  • Alison Conrad, Sanford School of Public Policy