The many myths of local food 16-17th July, University of Reading (UK)

Clewer, A. and Nunes, R. The many myths of local food. Re-emphasing the political as a pathway to food justice. Paper presented at Food Justice Conference. 2014. July 16-17, Reading, UK

The emergence of a diverse and fragmented grassroots local food network in recent years can be variously attributed to the desire to combat an array of global socio-political, environmental, ecological and economic challenges. Much has been claimed by advocates of this re-localisation of food; not least its contribution to climate change mitigation, health benefits, strengthening of local economies and social capital, equality of food access and potential to end the environmentally depredating practices of the current industrial agricultural system. The temptation for many advocates of this re-localisation agenda has been to highlight the ways in which the current global neoliberal industrial food system is ‘broken’ and to position the re-localisation movement as a direct challenger to both its ideological and market dominance, locating ‘social change potential in consumer market behaviour’ (Justice, 2013: 2). We seek to unlock many of the myths harboured within this dual assumption. Our point of departure is that the global industrial food system is not ‘broken’ and is indeed delivering on the ideological and economic principles it was founded upon. We argue that to take a restorative approach to a structure that has never possessed the desired facets of equality of access and justice, by deploying an approach that serves to further entrench its own market orientated systems, has the potential to be short-sighted. By drawing upon our investigations into local/regional food systems in Reading-London and Almere- Amsterdam, and our knowledge of the politically active food sovereignty movement of the global south, we seek to uncover many of the technical and ideological myths surrounding the re-localisation movement and support the call for a culture of reflexivity (Goodman et al, 2013) across all parts of the local food movement with a renewed emphasis upon the engagement of the political sphere as a key avenue for the achievement of the movements’ multiple goals.

Food systems planning and the city-region 9th-11th September, Oxford Brookes University (UK)

Nunes, R. and Clewer, A. Food systems planning and the city-region: Mapping policy perceptions and alignment with climate impact. Paper presented at UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference. 2014. September 9-11, Oxford, UK

Food systems planning and the city-region 5th-7th November, University of Applied Sciences (NL)

Nunes, R. and Clewer, A. Food systems planning and the city-region: Mapping policy perceptions and alignment with climate impact. Paper presented at the 6th International AESOP Sustainable Food Planning Conference. 2014. November 5-7, Leeuwarden, NL

There has been an international resurgence of interest in urban food spaces and associated alternative food networks in recent years, advocating a re-localisation of food production away from unsustainable global food supply. These community-led initiatives are motivated by a number of factors, including the drive to support farmers through community supported agriculture schemes and ensuring access to quality food in cities. This trend parallels the mounting attention to global food security in the face of climate change, as well as socio-economic pressures for alternative uses of agricultural land. Responses to these local and global concerns result in a fragmented and misaligned policy and governance context. Normative policy guidance broadly assumes a ‘post-political’ stance on the ecological and socio-economic benefits of local food systems, including effects on community cohesion, obesity and climate impact. However little evidence exists on the real motivations of producers/consumers of local food, and its alignment with perceptions of policy makers. We investigate these assumptions and perceptions in four case study city-regions of the UK and the Netherlands, as part of a larger international study of the climate impact of community food enterprise and its links to city-regional food systems. We bring new evidence to claims that micro-economic behaviour and practices, embedded in eco-ecological processes in places and extended regionally through inter-related networks, have the ability to “re-align production-consumption chains and capture local and regional value between rural and urban spaces” (Kitchen and Marsden, 2011: 758-9; cf. also Sonnino and Marsden 2006).