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Sweet Charity?: Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement Paperback – August 1, 1999


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Sweet Charity?: Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement + Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty + Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (California Studies in Food and Culture)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tens of thousands of programs across the U.S. distribute free food to the hungry, a type of charity, according to the author, that "comes with a price tag." In a hard-hitting, radical analysis of a national crisis, Poppendieck, director of Hunter College's Center for the Study of Family Policy in New York City, calls the food programs a Band-Aid approach to deepening poverty, which counterproductively relieves pressure for more fundamental solutions by enabling government to shed its responsibility for the poor. Poppendieck, who has participated in or observed food distribution programs in nine states across the country, meticulously investigates the factors she cites as driving people to the soup kitchen or food pantry: low wages, unemployment, high housing costs, homelessness, disability and shrinking public-assistance benefits. She calls for a nationwide political movement to pursue an antipoverty, antihunger agenda vigorously through a reformed tax system, affordable housing, a stronger federal safety net and vastly improved public education and training. This is a book to prick the nation's conscience.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Poppendieck (director of the Ctr. for the Study of Family Policy, Hunter Coll., CUNY) examines whether volunteerism, food pantries, and soup lines do more harm than good in this thought-provoking work. (Poppendieck dealt earlier with hunger during the Great Depression in Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat, LJ 3/1/86.) Here she explores the bitterness and frustration on both sides of the charity business of keeping people fed. During a bad economy, people "did the right thing" by pulling together to help each other. In the current strong economic times, she reports, people question the number of homeless and hungry and wonder why things haven't improved. The author investigates whether our present system of volunteerism?however charitable?is actually contributing to the problem instead of solving it by letting the government off the hook. This timely book is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.?Sandra Isaacson, U.S. EPA Region VII Lib., Las Vegas
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 7.2.1999 edition (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140245561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140245561
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ever felt that you want to help out in the world? Ever felt that you didn't know how? Ever felt you did know how, but it still didn't feel right? Anyone who has experienced these dilemmas should read Poppendieck's stream of thoughts and conversations, collected together in `Sweet Charity.' Subtitled `Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement,' it takes us through the practicalities and realities, and the rights and the wrongs of the movement to feed hungry people in the United States. A country of abundance and plenty, the apparent paradox of hunger is not lost on most of us. Poppendieck takes us into this contradiction and pushes hard to understand it. Take the introduction. The Good King Wenceslas carol is used to present a movement, a movement to feed the poor and hungry of America. But soon enough we find ourselves faced with a question: do these food banks and food pantries, these rescue operations, these places known collectively as `the emergency food system,' make our society kinder but less just? Does the kindness of Wenceslas betray those who believe in a long-term vision of economic justice? Poppendieck, Professor of Sociology at Hunter College in New York, has worked in charitable organizations herself, helping those who have problems accessing food. This is not an anti-charity book. Rather, it is a book that questions what charity should be, what we should do, and, most of all, what the government must understand. "Charity for all" opens the book with a picture of charity as recreation, down in New Jersey, the Boy Scouts of America sorting through food. It's early Thursday morning in chapter two, this time in Yorkville, NYC, where the newly unemployed jam into a food pantry.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book treats the emergency food system with fairness and offeres a balanced view of the strengths and weaknesses of the national shift toward in-kind food relief. The author does a wonderful job of exposing the problems with institutionalizing "emergency" food programs, while governmental agencies weaken the safety net for the poor. In addition to excellent ethnographic work, the author adds a number of nuggets of historical data to build context and meaning. A must read for those hungry for explainations as to why government had abandoned the needy and ignored the structural problems that produce what the author terms "food insecurity."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The author truly educated me about a topic I thought I was knowledgeable about. She managed to weave in her personal experiences working in a soup kitchen, her concern for those who are hungry, a profound respect for the other pantry and soup kitchen volunteers and donors with a cutting analysis of the politics and economics of hunger. That's a mightly long sentence that says this is a well-written, full and balanced report on a subject of great national concern. Before you give that jar of spaghetti sauce to the food drive or rush down to ladle beef stew onto the plates of the poor, take five minutes and skim this book. I am convinced that you will decide you must read the entire book and then rethink what you should be doing to help eliminate hunger here in the richest country in the world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Hesler (hesler@clarityconnect.com) on October 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
In "Sweet Charity" Janet provides us with a critical look at emergency feeding systems in the United States. This is not to say she disagrees with its existence, but through a comprehensive analysis, states that the proliferation of food banks, pantries and soup kitchens points to a real problem with hunger in what is a very wealthy nation by world standards. She further challenges that for hunger to end government MUST get and stay involved in a significant way. While food banking in this country has exploded and the incredible network of primarily volunteer driven emergency feeding programs on the front line have done and continue to do a great job, it simply is not enough. As the director of a food bank myself, it is not hard to initiallly be frustrated by Janet's review but after further reflection and reading you come to realize that she is not against emergency feeding, she is simply saying the immense growth of this industry points to a larger concern and the continued proliferation seems to support futher abdication of the government's role and responsibility. Janet also provides insight into volunteerism and the ways in which we "feed" our own "moral hunger" to serve those who are less fortunate. You will be challenged I think by her review here as well. Janet's research is based upon actual one on one interviews with all the various people involved in emergency feeding. She got her "hands dirty" to see what is really going on and gained insight into what people "on the front lines" are thinking. This book will make you think and think some more about hunger in our country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Troutman on October 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book on charitable efforts to end hunger in the US could use a second edition. That is, it's quite good, if not prescient in many ways, but it is starting to show a little around the edges because of political changes that have taken place in the fourteen years since its publication as well as the continued growth of a consortium of food banks called Second Harvest (now Feeding America). The central ideas of the book, a damning indictment of a giving approach to ending hunger, are as timely as ever, and the last three chapters, starting with the one on the "seven deadly in's" of charitable giving (inefficiency, indignity, inappropriateness, etc.), sting as much as they ever did. Part of what prompted me to read this was listening to a state legislator baldly justify his hostility toward to government programs by his annual donation of some turkeys. The ridiculousness and condescension of his position are exactly the kind of thing this book targets.

The book concentrates largely on the 1980s and the rise of the notion of hunger in the US (and to a much lesser extent, around the world). How did it come about that whenever you decided you wanted to volunteer to `help end hunger', that there would be someone in need? That was, indeed, a new phenomenon of a sort in the 1980s. What begs to be told now is how little attention the issue received during the Great Recession relative to what statistics demonstrate has been happening and how we can have discussions of budget cuts with so little awareness of what that would actually mean to people.
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