“Good morning Metro shoppers!” Hunger, COVID-19 and the Emergence of Roll Call Neoliberalism

Authors: Michael Classens*, Trent University, Mary Anne Martin, Trent University
Topics: Food Systems
Keywords: COVID-19, neoliberalism, food systems, food insecurity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

During the first six months of the global pandemic in Canada, the Canadian Federal government
earmarked $200,000,000 through the Emergency Food Security Fund. These funds were
disbursed through a handful of national and regional emergency food and food justice agencies
to smaller front-line serving organizations. The money was earmarked for the purchase of
emergency food provisions, personal protective equipment, and to hire additional workers.
Through these material investments, and other discursive invocations, the Canadian Federal
government conscripted food banks, and food justice and community development organizations
into its efforts to address dramatically increasing rates of food insecurity across the country
through charity emergency food provisioning. We theorize these dynamics within the broader
processes of neoliberalization. Drawing on Peck and Tickell’s (2002) stylized distinction
between the destructive (roll back) and creative (roll out) moments of the process of
neoliberalism, we frame the crisis of COVID-19 as exposing a third moment of recalibration
(roll call) neoliberalism. We focus on this dynamic specifically within the context of the food
justice movement in Canada and argue that the Federal Government’s activities during the global
pandemic had the effect of compelling food justice organizations – perhaps only temporarily – to
shelve their more ambitious social change agendas, and focus instead on emergency food
provisioning, a configuration more compatible within the context of late neoliberal capitalism.

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