Are local food and the local food movement taking us where we want to go? Or are we hitching our wagons to the wrong stars?
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Much is being made of local food. It is at once a social movement, a diet, and an economic strategy—a popular solution—to a global food system in great distress. Yet, despite its popularity or perhaps because of it, local food (especially in the US) is also something of a chimera if not a tool of the status quo. This paper reflects on and contrasts aspects of current local food rhetoric with Dalhberg’s notion of a regenerative food system. It identifies three problematic emphases—the locavore emphasis, the Wal-Mart emphasis, and the Pollan emphasis—and argues that they are shifting local food (as a concept and a social movement) away from the deeper concerns of equity, citizenship, place-building, and sustainability. It is suggested that local food activists and advocates might consider the use of multiple methodologies and forms of expression to explore the integration and reintegration of local food into diverse and redundant place-based practice. A short case study of a low-income, urban neighborhood in Lansing, Michigan, illustrates the value of contextual analysis for more fully enabling the local food movement and a regenerative food system.
KeywordsLocal food movement Local food Locavores Regenerative food system Ethnography
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