Operationalizing local food: goals, actions, and indicators for alternative food systems
- 1.6k Downloads
Spatial localization, often demarcated by food miles, has emerged as the dominant theme in movements for more socially just and environmentally benign alternative food systems, especially in industrialized countries such as the United States. We analyze how an emphasis on spatial localization, combined with the difficulty of defining and measuring adequate indicators for alternative food systems, can challenge efforts by food system researchers, environmental writers, the engaged public, and advocacy groups wanting to contribute to alternative food systems, and facilitates exploitation by the mainstream players using “localwash” to maintain the status quo. New indicators are urgently needed because research shows that spatial localization in general and minimized food miles in particular are not adequate or even required for most of the goals of alternative food systems. Creating indicators to operationalize goals for alternative, local food systems requires asking the right questions to make sure indicators are not misleading us: What are the goals of alternative food systems? What actions and policies will most effectively achieve those goals? What is the potential of reducing food miles as an action and a policy for achieving goals? What are the best indicators for measuring progress toward goals? We discuss how these questions can be answered for a wide range of alternative food system goals via four categories according to the role of food miles reduction as an action and policy in promoting them: necessary and sufficient, necessary but not sufficient, potentially important, and potentially supportive.
KeywordsAlternative food systems Food miles Indicators Local food movement Local trap Localization Locavores Sustainability
California Rural Legal Assistance
Community supported agriculture
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
Electronic benefit transfer
Food policy council
Good Food Purchasing Guidelines
Good Food Purchasing Pledge
Greenhouse gas emissions
Los Angeles Food Policy Council
Life cycle assessment
North American Free Trade Agreement
National Good Food Network
Real Food Challenge
Santa Barbara County
United Farm Workers
This research was partially funded by the Sustainability Champion award to David A. Cleveland from the University of California, Santa Barbara Academic Senate, Sustainability Working Group. A much earlier version of this research was presented in 2011 at the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) Annual Conference, Oakland, California. For help with the research Allison Carruth thanks Kathryn Cai. For comments on the manuscript we thank Paula Daniels, Daniela Soleri, editor Harvey James, Jr., and four anonymous reviewers.
- AFT (American Farmland Trust). 2012. Planting the seeds: Moving to more local food in western Washington. http://www.farmland.org/programs/states/wa/Western-Washington-Foodshed-Study.asp. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Appadurai, A. 1996. Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Beck, U. 1992 . Risk society: Towards a new modernity (Translated from the German by Mark A. Ritter). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Buzby, J.C., H.F. Wells, and J. Hyman. 2014. The estimated amount, value, and calories of postharvest food losses at the retail and consumer levels in the United States. Economic Information Bulletin Number 121. Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
- Cantrell, P. 2010. Sysco’s journey from supply chain to value chain: 2008–2009 final report. Wallace Center at Winrock International. http://www.wallacecenter.org/our-work/Resource-Library/Innovative-Models/SyscoCaseStudy2009.pdfcantel. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Carpenter, N. 2009. Farm city: The education of an urban farmer. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Castells, M. 1996. The rise of the network society: The information age. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Chipotle. 2014. Food with integrity: Environment. http://www.chipotle.com/en-us/fwi/environment/environment.aspx. Accessed 12 July 2014.
- Clark, S., and H. Walsh. 2011. Fair trade proving anything but in growing $6 billion market. Bloomberg Bussinessweek, December 28. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-28/fair-trade-proving-anything-but-in-growing-6-billion-market.html. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Cleveland, D.A., C.N. Radka, and N.M. Müller. 2011a. Localization—Necessary but not sufficient. Huffington Post, May 31. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-a-cleveland/local-food-climate-change-_b_869491.html. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Cleveland, D.A., C.N. Radka, N.M. Müller, T.D. Watson, N.J. Rekstein, H.V.M. Wright, and S.E. Hollingshead. 2011b. The effect of localizing fruit and vegetable consumption on greenhouse gas emissions and nutrition, Santa Barbara County. Environmental Science and Technology 45: 4555–4562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cleveland, D.A. 2014. Balancing on a planet: The future of food and agriculture. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Daniels, P., and A. Delwiche. 2013. Interview in Los Angeles with Paula Daniels, Founder and Chair, and Alexa Delwich, Food Policy Coordinator, Los Angeles Food Policy Council. February 14.Google Scholar
- Daniels, P. 2014. Personal communication from Paula Daniels, Founder and Chair, Los Angeles Food Policy Council. March 27.Google Scholar
- Edwards-Jones, G., L.M.I. Canals, N. Hounsome, M. Truninger, G. Koerber, B. Hounsome, P. Cross, E.H. York, A. Hospido, K. Plassmann, I.M. Harris, R.T. Edwards, G.A.S. Day, A.D. Tomos, S.J. Cowell, and D.L. Jones. 2008. Testing the assertion that ‘local food is best’: The challenges of an evidence-based approach. Trends in Food Science & Technology 19: 265–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Estabrook, B. 2011. The Santa Barbara syndrome: Evidence of a broken food system. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2011/02/the-santa-barbara-syndrome-evidence-of-abroken-food-system/71244/. Accessed 29 August 2013.
- Goodman, D., E.M. DuPuis, and M.K. Goodman. 2012. Alternative food networks: Knowledge, practice and politics. New York, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- GreenpeaceUSA. 2011. Greenwashing. http://stopgreenwash.org/. Accessed 14 July 2012.
- Guthman, J. 2011. Weighing in: Obesity, food justice, and the limits of capitalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development). 2009. Synthesis report with executive summary: A synthesis of the global and sub-global IAASTD reports. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
- Kingsolver, B. 2007. Animal, vegetable, miracle: A year of food life. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
- LAFPC (Los Angeles Food Policy Council). 2012. Good Food Purchasing Guidelines for food service institutions. Los Angeles. http://www.thegreenhorns.net/wp-content/files_mf/1396804772goodfood.pdf. Accessed 18 April 2014.
- LAFPC (Los Angeles Food Policy Council). 2014. Good Food Purchasing Program. http://goodfoodla.org/policymaking/good-food-procurement/. Accessed 18 April 2014.
- Martin, P., and J.E. Taylor. 2013. Ripe with change: Evolving farm labor markets in the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ripe_with_change_farm_labor.pdf. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Martinez, S., M. Hand, M. Da Pra, S. Pollack, K. Ralston, T. Smith, S. Vogel, S. Clark, L. Lohr, S. Low, and C. Newman. 2010. Local food systems: Concepts, impacts, and issues. Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
- Moreton, B. 2010. To serve God and Wal-Mart: The making of Christian free enterprise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Nabhan, G.P. 2002. Coming home to eat: The politics and pleasures of local foods. New York, London: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
- O’Brien, S. 2010. Anti-Fascist gluttons of the world Unite! The cultural politics of slow food. In Cultural autonomy: Frictions and connections, ed. P. Rethmann, I. Szeman, and W.D. Coleman, 219–239. Vancouver, Toronto: UCB Press.Google Scholar
- Ozeki, R.L. 1998. My year of meats. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Ozeki, R.L. 2003. All over creation. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Ozeki, R.L. 2004. Healthy eating for you and the planet, a celebration of food and biodiversity. Living With Nature (Conference), New York. http://cbc.amnh.org/center/features/lwn.html. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Ozeki, R.L. 2008. You are what you eat: Food, fiction, and feminist identity. Consuming Women: An Undergraduate Conference, Canadian Women’s Studies Conference, University of British Columbia. http://www.ws.arts.ubc.ca/guest.html. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Pirog, R., and A. Benjamin. 2003. Checking the food odometer: Comparing food miles for local versus conventional produce sales to Iowa institutions. Ames, Iowa: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University. http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/staff/files/food_travel072103.pdf. Accessed 4 November 2009.
- Pollan, M. 2006. The omnivore’s dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York: The Penguin Press.Google Scholar
- Pollan, M. 2008. In defense of food: An eater’s manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- RFC (Real Food Challenge). 2013a. Real food calculator. http://calculator.realfoodchallenge.org/. Accessed 3 September 2013.
- RFC (Real Food Challenge). 2013b. About. http://www.realfoodchallenge.org/about-real-food-challenge. Accessed 3 September 2013.
- RFC (Real Food Challenge). 2014. Real food calculator: Assessment tips and frequently asked questions. http://www.realfoodchallenge.org/sites/g/files/g809971/f/201403/RFCCalculatorF.A.Q%27s%26Tips.March2014.pdf. Accessed 23 April 2014.
- Roberts, W. 2011. Citywatch: Food’s a trip, actually a baker’s dozen of trips. http://blogs.worldwatch.org/citywatch-food%E2%80%99s-a-trip-actually-a-baker%E2%80%99s-dozen-of-trips/. Accessed 16 December 2011.
- Safeway. 2013. Fresh from our farmers. http://www.safeway.com/ShopStores/Produce-Growers.page. Accessed 24 March 2014.
- Saxton, D.I. 2012. The lores of local food: Different ways of being local and eating locally. http://www.aaanet.org/sections/ae/index.php/the-lores-of-local-food. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Schnell, S.M. 2013. Food miles, local eating, and community supported agriculture: Putting local food in its place. Agriculture and Human Values 30: 615–628.Google Scholar
- Smith, E. 2013. We love local. Whole story: The official Whole Foods blog. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/we-love-local. Accessed 26 November 2013.
- Sonntag, V. 2008. Why local linkages matter: Findings from the local food economy study. Seattle, WA: Sustainable Seattle. http://www.farmlandinfo.org/documents/37980/Why_Local_Matters_Seattle.pdf. Accessed 8 May 2011.
- Swanson, A.F. 2013. Small farmers aren’t cashing in with Wal-Mart. The Salt: NPR Online. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/04/171051906/can-small-farms-benefit-from-wal-mart-s-push-into-local-foods. Accessed 12 September 2013.
- Thompson, E., Jr, A.M. Harper, and S. Kraus. 2008. Think globally—Eat locally: San Francisco foodshed assessment. http://www.farmland.org/programs/states/ca/FeatureStories/San-Francisco-Foodshed-Report.asp. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- USDA ERS (United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service). 2014. Food availability (per capita) data system. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-%28per-capita%29-data-system/.aspx-.U3qgyC-LnjE. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- USDA NASS (United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service). 2009. United States Summary and State Data, Volume 1, Geographic Area Series, Part 51, AC-07-A-51. 2007 Census of Agriculture. Washington, DC: USDA. http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/. Accessed 12 July 2011.
- USDA NASS (United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service). 2014. 2012 Census of Agriculture. USDA. http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/. Accessed 2 June 2014.
- Vandermeer, J. 2009. The ecology of agroecosystems Sudbury. MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.Google Scholar
- Walmart. 2012. Locally grown products. http://walmartstores.com/sustainability/7985.aspx. Accessed 2 February 2012.
- Watanabe, T. 2013. L.A. Unified’s local food push is healthy for area economy too. Los Angeles Times, November 24. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/24/local/la-me-lausd-food-20131124. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Watanabe, T. 2014. LAUSD food effort makes local farms healthier too. Los Angeles Times, February 12. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-c1-oranges-lausd-20140212-dto,0,7558479.htmlstory-axzz2wN5R0IGo. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Whole Foods. 2013. Locally grown. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/locally-grown. Accessed 12 September 2013.
- Wise, T.A. 2009. Agricultural dumping under NAFTA: Estimating the costs of U.S. agricultural policies to Mexican producers. Working paper no. 09-08. Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, Medford, MA. http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/wp/09-08AgricDumping.pdf. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Zeller, T., Jr. 2011. Eating local: Does it matter? Huffington Post, 2011 May 20. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/20/eating-local-does-it-matter_n_864809.html. Accessed 1 June 2014.
- Zepeda, L., and J. Li. 2006. Who buys local food? Journal of Food Distribution Research 37: 1–11.Google Scholar