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Anticipatory practice and the making of surplus food

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Midgley



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper explores the practices that have evolved between a global food retailer and a leading charitable surplus food redistributor to enable the utilization of surplus food in community and charitable meal settings in the UK. I argue that to understand surplus food and its potential futures (consumed or wasted), closer engagement with anticipatory thinking is needed. Drawing on interview data with key stakeholders and observations of the food industry redistribution process the paper explores the anticipatory actions taken by different actors as they attempt to manage the possible futures of foods that become categorized as surplus. The paper shows how different market devices are used to manage market concerns about surplus food and work to assure its future consumption. The devices focus on managing the risks of the food becoming unsafe and the associated legal liabilities. The market concerns, as expressions of anticipatory thinking, inform a series of anticipatory practices throughout the redistribution process to enable all actors, and especially the Retailer, to trust in the process. The paper concludes by noting how reliant the redistribution process is on anticipatory practices, especially pre-emption and improvisation to make the process workable, but also how these work to contain the various concerns within market arrangements. The paper highlights the importance of anticipation as a theoretical basis for exploring surplus food and the concept of surplus more widely.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Midgley JL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geoforum

Year: 2019

Volume: 99

Pages: 181-189

Print publication date: 01/02/2019

Online publication date: 25/09/2018

Acceptance date: 13/09/2018

Date deposited: 14/09/2018

ISSN (print): 1872-9398

ISSN (electronic): 0016-7185

Publisher: Pergamon Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.09.013

Notes: Presented at AAG 2017, accepted as part of a special issue on urban food sharing.


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