Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 281–297 | Cite as

Operationalizing local food: goals, actions, and indicators for alternative food systems

  • David A. Cleveland
  • Allison Carruth
  • Daniella Niki Mazaroli
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Alternative food systems Food miles Indicators Local food movement Local trap Localization Locavores Sustainability 

Abbreviations

CRLA

California Rural Legal Assistance

CSA

Community supported agriculture

CUESA

Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture

EBT

Electronic benefit transfer

FPC

Food policy council

GFPG

Good Food Purchasing Guidelines

GFPP

Good Food Purchasing Pledge

GHGE

Greenhouse gas emissions

LAFPC

Los Angeles Food Policy Council

LCA

Life cycle assessment

NAFTA

North American Free Trade Agreement

NGFN

National Good Food Network

RFC

Real Food Challenge

SBC

Santa Barbara County

UFW

United Farm Workers

US

United States

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Cleveland
    • 1
  • Allison Carruth
    • 2
  • Daniella Niki Mazaroli
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Department of English and Institute of Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Leichtag FoundationEncinitasUSA

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