Truffles and Trash

Recirculating Food in a Social Welfare State

By Kelly Alexander

Truffles and Trash

Approx. 240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, 2 maps, 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7859-7
    Published: October 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7858-0
    Published: October 2024

Paperback Available October 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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On a fragile planet with spreading food insecurity, food waste is a political and ethical problem. In Truffles and Trash, Kelly Alexander reveals it is also an opportunity for new forms of sociality. These dynamics play out across a diverse set of locations—from a food bank with ties to the EU and a social restaurant serving low-cost meals made from supermarket surplus by an emergent immigrant labor force to a social inclusion program in an urban market with a "zero food waste" pop-up café. Alexander's close analysis illustrates the collaborative, sometimes scrappy institutional and community efforts to recuperate and redistribute food waste in Brussels, Belgium. She argues that these efforts in concert with innovative policy effectively recirculate wasted food to new publics and produce what she terms a "spectrum of edibility."

According to Alexander, the models face challenges—including reproducing the very power dynamics across race, class, and citizenship status they seek to circumvent. They also mirror the challenges of the everyday operations of the European social welfare state, which is increasingly reliant on NGOs to meet provisioning promises. Yet she finds that they also move the needle forward in reducing food waste across one city, providing a model for major urban centers around the world.

About the Author

Kelly Alexander is assistant professor and George B. Tindall Fellow of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For more information about Kelly Alexander, visit the Author Page.


"Engrossing, surprising, and fun—the specific sites and people Alexander works with and lives among come alive in this account. An exemplar of the ethnographic method."—Joshua Reno, Binghamton University