Most people rely on supermarkets, and these megastores dominate our food economy. They are part of a system that depends on large-scale agriculture and production, smooth-flowing international food trade and fast turnaround times.

But what happens when system vulnerabilities are exposed and they break down? What catches our fall?

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We need a resilient food system. This means going beyond the ecological idea of resilience as merely survival during times of stress, and instead proactively building a food system that can both respond quickly to changing circumstances and act as a safety net.

What we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is…

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Researchers developed a Local Food Systems Toolkit to evaluate the economic impact of local food systems policies, programming and initiatives, with the hopes of making the evaluation of impacts more standardised and accessible to policymakers and funders.

If every dollar or pound spent within the local economy has the potential to increase localised spending and support smaller-scale enterprise, does this mean that local food systems show similar impacts? This local multiplier effect is what Becca Jablonski, Dawn Thilmany McFadden, and their team of Agricultural Economists from across the U.S. set out to investigate. …

Is there such a thing as an activist consumer?

By Bailey Anderson and Emma Burnett

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From Broadsport Source

Many academics in our circles believe there is a right way to consume, that through specific actions, from veganism to keep cups, we might be able to prevent the looming threat of environmental disaster. While at this stage, almost no one is arguing that individual action is the solution to climate change, it is still common to experience shame in consuming “the wrong way” and validation in consuming “the right way.” However, it seems to us that consumption based behaviour is more virtue signalling than it is effective activism[1].

We understand why the idea…

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Marcia Ostrom, Kathryn De Master, Egon Noe, and Markus Schermer recently compiled a special issue in The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food exploring values-based food chains in Europe and North America. This Special Issue shows that there is continued need to expand and celebrate values beyond monetary and business-related attitudes, including health, quality of life, and social relationships.

Fed by locals

There is growing demand for locally produced, small-scale organic food across Europe and North America.

However, not everyone is in a position to benefit from the sorts of direct markets that are the main delivery systems of locally produced food to consumers. Many producers find it difficult to run market stalls or box schemes, or to integrate into restaurant or supermarket ordering systems. Many consumers cannot access markets or afford higher prices of food, or find markets socially or culturally exclusionary.

While the concept of ‘local food’ has been particularly salient, attracting media, public, and academic attention, the ideas around…

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Is it time to rethink how we address food resilience? In their recent paper, Petr Jehlička, Petr Daněk, and Jan Vávra unpick the idea that home gardening, home-grown food, or food self-provisioning is only a coping strategy for those hit with hard times. Rather, they suggest that home growing should be understood as part of a set of practices that increase food security and enhance resilience.

Making home growing visible

To explore this, the researchers carried out a large-scale survey of over 2000 households in the Czech Republic. They looked at topics such as access to land, where food in households was sourced, amount of home-grown food, social interactions related to food production and sharing, and the size of these networks. This was the second survey done by the authors. The first, in 2010, initially showed the depth of often overlooked informal home gardening practices. This second confirmed the first findings, along with how widespread, but often culturally invisible, everyday food practices are.

Results showed that 38% of households produce…

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What motivates alternative food movement practitioners and leaders? How do they manage limited capacity for action? Are groups collaborating with each other to build collective strength? Lesli Hoey and Allison Sponseller from the University of Michigan carried out interviews with food movement leaders in Michigan (USA) to explore these questions. They recommend practical pathways that can lead to increased capacity for collective action and supportive policy change.

Putting down roots

Food movements in Michigan have a long history and have seen a spike in growth in recent years. Citizens were heavily affected by environmental movements in the 1960s, by the recession in the 1980s, and a long decline in local industry and high out-migration. In many communities (especially Detroit), they have been motivated to take action on food issues.

Initiatives span across urban agriculture, youth empowerment, community-run food cooperatives and CSAs, farmers’ markets, food hubs, school programmes, and food policy councils. Michigan has also been a testing ground for innovative food assistance programmes and a grassroots-led state-wide Good Food Charter.

What motivates people to get involved with food issues?

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The disconnect between producers and consumers is one driver of the increased popularity of local food. However, there is still a lack of clarity about what ‘local’ means. Emilia Schmitt, Dominique Barjolle, and Johan Six from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (Switzerland) tackle this in their recent paper “Assessing the degree of localness of food value chains”. The authors move away from dualistic thinking about local and global, instead identifying different criteria that can be assessed, and create a more nuanced view of the food system.

Local is not only food miles

Localness may mean many things, and food miles is a piece of the picture. To reflect this, the researchers relied on multi-criteria evaluation. They tested a new framework of localness as it relates to the food value chain. They applied metrics that can help to quantify this localness, using two case studies from Swiss cheese producers.

These criteria were selected for their recurrence in the literature. But, as the authors note, they can be modified or added to in order to reflect a researcher’s needs or questions, or to increase robustness of the model.

Well, that was depressing.

I’ve just come from a City Council meeting in Oxford. In January , the council declared a Climate Emergency prioritising action on climate change. It made national news — Oxford is doing something, not just studying it. It was amazing. It was a joyous moment. It was supposed to an epic force for change. Oxford was going to lead as one of the first councils to really tackle the climate crisis through its areas of responsibility and networks with other governing bodies.

Tonight the council decided that move was too ambitious.

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No one else will do this for us.

Don’t get me wrong, the thing you’ve probably heard…

It’s bathtime. The bath is full of bubbles and toys, the tap is still trickling, and a small child is slowly shedding dirt and morphing from filthy to cleanish. I’m sat on the side of the tub with my hand dangling in the water.

“Clean you up” says little E, taking my hand. She holds my hand firmly and rubs bubbles onto it. She rinses her hands under the tap, one hand then the other, holding them out of the bathwater to keep them clear of bubbles. She takes hold of me again, firmly in control and rinses off my…

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Read, read, kid. ©earnesteye

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything longer than a few notes (which inevitably end up at the bottom of a massive stack of papers on my desk). I mean, parenting a 2-year-old is hard work, man! You don’t get much time for introspection.

Since the, like, year and a half since I posted anything I’ve gotten the post-natal depression under control, gone back to a plethora of jobs and social media, and (this is the important one), kicked off the process of applying for PhDs. I am super, super excited about doing a PhD. It’s always seemed like a…

Emma Burnett

Social entrepreneur. Conscientious parent. Pluralist economist. Cultivator.

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