My name is Leah Gose and I am a PhD candidate in sociology at Harvard University. I am a Malcolm Hewitt Wiener PhD Scholar in Poverty and Justice and a Graduate Student Fellow this year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Photo of Leah
Photo by Kevin Grady


My research examines how community organizations shape service provision in the social safety net, respond to governmental policy and funding influences, and impact the lives of individuals. My scholarship contributes primarily to the study of organizations and inequality/poverty, but also engages with urban sociology, political sociology, social policy, and social networks.

My dissertation, tentatively titled "Feeding the Need? Hidden Disparities in the Social Safety Net," is an examination of how community organizations address need and issues of poverty in a time where state and federal governments continue to rely on them as answers to devolution and welfare reform. I focus on organizations with food provision services, like food pantries and soup kitchens, of which near 70,000 exist in the US.  I draw over 170 interviews and site visits with 96 organizations in addition to historical data, site photographs, and self-created maps using ACS data. I first highlight that the organizational response to food need is extremely varied, from the types of organizations involved and the food they give out to how they distribute food and the rules the put in place for who is elligible to receive it. I explain how this variation impacts the accessibility of food, particularly as it is embedded in organizations with hidden boundaries to these services. I then show how role differentiation and physical space are two influential factors in shaping this variation. I argue that differences in organizationally-embedded services can be good for individuals with specific needs, but overall results in unequal access to aid. Moreover, I show how food pantries and other food provision services are innovative spaces to understand policy failures from seemingly unrelated programs, like Medicaid and Medicare.