Putting Money Where Your Mouth Is: Hunger, Cause-Related Marketing & the Politics of Corporate Food Bank Philanthropy
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In this study, I employ a combination of social semiotics and critical discourse analysis to examine the marketing media from corporate social responsibility campaigns focused on food bank philanthropy and awareness-raising for the issue of hunger. I use media from a sample of six of the largest and most visible corporate food bank philanthropy campaigns to represent a broad range of their differences. Each campaign is analyzed for how the problem of hunger and the solution as food banks are represented. Hunger is represented by these corporations as a problem of a lack of food that can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, for which families and/or local communities bear responsibility. This typification of the problem of hunger comes packaged conceptually with a characterization of the solution to that problem in food banks represented as a food-focused, charity-based, volunteer-run response that relies on corporate sponsorships and corporate social responsibility programs to harnesses the marketability of hunger to increase donations. These representations are evidence form the basis on an analysis of how the problem of hunger is currently thought about and acted upon in Canada. Claims about hunger exist at a juncture between the resources available and the kinds of responses to hunger that are likely to arise. This study demonstrates what corporate claims about hunger mean in relation to the ongoing development of food banking. This study is also an analysis of a particular case of corporate food bank philanthropy as an example campaign to highlight how the corporate construction of hunger is deployed to obscure, marginalize, and foreclose on the possibility of the emergence of alternative understandings of hunger and approaches beyond food banking based on a charity model. The dominant typification of the problem of hunger by corporations further institutionalizes an inadequate food banking paradigm that cannot address the social underpinnings that lead to the expression of hunger.