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Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 787–804 | Cite as

A quantitative analysis of food movement convergence in four Canadian provinces

  • Ashley McInnes
  • Evan Fraser
  • Ze’ev Gedalof
  • Jennifer Silver
Article

Abstract

Whether the food movement is most likely to transform the food system through ‘alternative’ or ‘oppositional’ initiatives has been the focus of considerable scholarly debate. Alternative initiatives are widespread but risk reinforcing the conventional food system by supporting neoliberal discourse and governance mechanisms, including localism, consumer choice, entrepreneurialism and self-help. While oppositional initiatives such as political advocacy have the potential for system-wide change, the current neoliberal political and ideological context dominant in Canada poses difficulties for initiatives that explicitly oppose the conventional food system. As such, some argue that the food movement requires convergence between alternative and oppositional initiatives. In this paper, we investigate convergence using survey results from 143 food movement organizations in four Canadian provinces. Results based on cluster analysis and descriptive statistics on organizational discourse, activities and visions of sustainable food systems demonstrate convergence around neoliberal discourse and governance mechanisms. Localism and consumer education characteristics are particularly prominent, with a majority of respondents describing their organizations as ‘local’, engaging in consumer education activities, and stating the importance of consumer education activities, indicating convergence around alternative, rather than oppositional, initiatives. While convergence around these discourse and strategies may limit the transformative potential of the food system when interpreted as neoliberalisation of the movement, such a reading does not demonstrate their full potential, as survey results also indicate trends of transformative visions of change and political engagement, particularly at the municipal level. This research demonstrates that the movement can work simultaneously within, and opposed to, the conventional food system, and provides understanding of both neoliberal leanings and the politics of the possible of the food movement.

Keywords

Alternative food movement Local food systems Neoliberalisation Convergence Quantitative methods 

Abbreviations

AFMA

Alberta farmers’ market association

AFM

Alberta food matters

BCAFM

British Columbia association of farmers’ markets

BCFSN

British Columbia food systems network

FMNS

Farmers’ markets of Nova Scotia

FMO

Farmers’ markets Ontario

FSC

Food secure Canada

NSFSN

Nova Scotia food security network

SO

Sustain Ontario

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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