Undeserving, Disadvantaged, Disregarded: Three Viewpoints of Charity Food Aid Recipients in Finland

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Dec 17;15(12):2896. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15122896.


Since the economic recession of the 1990s, Finland has experienced the proliferation of charity food aid as a means of helping people who are afflicted by poverty. However, so far little research has been conducted regarding the food aid recipients. This article gives discursive, demographic, and experiential insights into charity food provision and reception in Finland. Drawing on quantitative survey data, online discussion data related to news published on Finnish newspapers' web pages, and observation and interviews with food aid recipients, this article sheds new light on Finnish food aid recipients from three perspectives. First, public perceptions about food aid often portray food recipients as dishonourable and responsible for their own poverty. Secondly, the survey data shows that the main reason for people resorting to charity food aid is deep economic disadvantage, and further, that there is an unequal accumulation of disadvantage among the food aid recipients, illustrating internal diversity. Third, observational and interview data show that from the food recipients' perspective, the food aid system has only a limited ability to answer even their immediate food needs, and for the recipients, food aid venues can become not only socially significant, but also socially demanding and emotionally burdening places.

Keywords: Finland; charity; deservingness; disadvantages; food aid; food aid recipient; inequality; welfare state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Charities / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Food Assistance / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Poverty
  • Public Opinion*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology*