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Seminar: "What shifts when food is not for sale?", by Sam Bliss

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Sam Bliss, Ph.D. candidate in natural resources at the University of Vermont, will be visiting ICTA-UAB to give a seminar.


Title: "What shifts when food is not for sale?"

Speaker: Sam BlissPh.D. candidate in natural resources at the University of Vermont

Date: Thursday, February 23rd 2023
Time: 12.30h to 14h
Venue: Sala Antoni Rosell (Room Z/022 & Z/023)

In the Global North, researchers often portray food charity as a regrettable band-aid, and food self-provisioning as a coping mechanism for the poor or a hobby for the well-off. Yet people produce and distribute food that is not for sale for many reasons, including, I argue, because these non-market practices do things that markets cannot. I draw on several large-sample surveys and 90 interviews with people in the northeastern United States about their gardening, hunting, fishing, foraging, scavenging, food sharing, gifts, barter, and charity to suggest that these non-market practices hold promise for living well together through crises. For one thing, non-market sources can feed people who do not have money for food. Gleaning, dumpstering, charity, and mutual aid ensure that edible-but-not-sellable food gets eaten, not wasted. People who have experience growing vegetables both for sale and not describe market farming as stressful and non-market production as actively de-stressing. Producing one’s own food and transferring food without monetary exchange create deeper and stronger relationships, both between people and with the rest of the land’s inhabitants, than producing for sale and selling. These relationships make communities more resilient against pandemics, economic disruptions, and extreme weather. Self-provisioners describe their skills to harvest nourishment from the landscape as food security in an uncertain future. Research with peasants in the Global South has demonstrated the benefits of livelihood diversification; this series of studies suggests that rural residents of rich countries may act similarly, or with similar motivations.


Sam Bliss is a Ph.D. candidate in natural resources at the University of Vermont, where he teaches applied economics and studies non-market food practices. He also co-organizes a mutual aid project called Food Not Cops that shares lunch every day in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Sam is a fellow of the Gund Institute for Environment and the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative, and he is a member of Research & Degrowth and DegrowUS.