Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Bradley Wilson

Committee Co-Chair

Karen Culcasi

Committee Member

Karen Culcasi

Committee Member

Trevor Harris

Committee Member

Maria Perez

Committee Member

Cheryl Brown

Committee Member

Adam Pine


Drawing on a five-year institutional ethnography of Humanitarian Food Networks (HFNs) in West Virginia, this dissertation explores the moral, political and economic place of the food bank in the corporate environmental food regime. I develop the concept of the food bank fix to theorize the paradoxical relationships between the state, the shadow state, food corporations, local charities and food banks that tie HFNs across the United States together through humanitarian reason. I argue that food banks damp the grinding contradictions of a society awash in food surpluses even as a significant proportion of the population remains at risk of hunger. To buttress this argument, I analyze the geographic process through which the moral impulse of those working to address hunger at the local level is subordinated to institutional logics that resolve crises of overproduction and manufactured food scarcity for a globalized and increasingly integrated food system. I demonstrate how diffuse powers from across this system become concentrated and negotiated at the food bank scale, where an awkward combination of altruism, profit seeking, compassion and rulemaking maintains humanitarian feeding lines in place and linked across space. Theorizing the food banking fix shines a light on one of the glaring contradictions in our food system, namely that regulating food surpluses is itself generative of the food scarcity essential to market rationalities.