Broadly, this research is about how philosophy is translated into a set of practices, and about how these practices are affected by the political economic context in which they are imbedded. Using ethnographic methods I explore how the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House (DTES NH), originally a grassroots organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), attempts to transform the predominantly low-income DTES’s “food system” according to its understanding of the “Right to Food” philosophy. The DTES NH differentiates itself from, is critical of and constructs itself in opposition to, charitable food organizations. It aims to empower the most marginalized victims of systemic injustice and to transform oppressive social relations through the modality of food rather then merely delivering food to poor people. However, the DTES NH is growing in a direction that reflects broader neoliberal currents that bear the risk of structurally aligning the DTES NH with the non-profit organizations it critiques. Examining the practices of the DTES NH through the perspectives of its staff, volunteers and program participants and linking them to the broader political-economic context, my research ultimately questions the degree to which social change is possible from within the non-profit sector.
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Thesis advisor: Lacombe, Dany
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