In the 1760s there were a series of harvest failures in Italy, and an English captain offered the people of Naples his cargo of potatoes to help them through the famine. Rather than accept the free food, the Neapolitans threw it overboard out of disgust for the strange and foreign vegetable. While such disgust for the potato may seem absurd to us now, the cultural specificity and politics around the food in food aid is still something that contemporary humanitarian organisations and programmes regularly struggle with.

Looking at a few more recent examples of the rejection of food aid, and ideas of a nominally ‘culturally neutral’ option, Rejection & Disgust explores who gets to decide what food is and what identities are protected in the food aid we serve, eat and reject.

Rejection & Disgust

A disgusting vegetable