Comparing German and Italian food banks: Actors' knowledge on food insecurity and their perception of the interaction with food bank users

Br Food J. 2018;120(10):2425-2438. doi: 10.1108/BFJ-11-2017-0626. Epub 2018 Oct 1.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate food bank actors' knowledge of food insecurity in Germany and in Italy, as well as interactions between food bank actors and food bank users. The study builds on a knowledge framework from an educational context and applies it to food banks.

Design/methodology/approach: The study uses a qualitative research approach. In all, 22 in-depth interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed through inductive qualitative content analysis.

Findings: German and Italian food bank actors interviewed had at least situational knowledge on food insecurity. Some actors of the Italian food bank also showed procedural knowledge. Interactions between food bank personnel and users were affected by feelings of gratitude, shame, anger and disappointment.

Originality/value: The study explores food bank personnel's knowledge on food insecurity, which appears to be a knowledge gap, even though many prior studies were dedicated to food banks and food insecurity. The study contributes to knowledge systematization to provide best practice recommendations for volunteer-user interaction, and suggests how food bank managers and volunteers' knowledge can be improved.

Keywords: Food aid; In-depth interviews; Knowledge forms; Poverty; Qualitative content analysis.