Local food projects are steadily becoming a part of contemporary food systems and take on many forms. They are typically analyzed using an ethical, or socio-political, lens. Food focused initiatives can be understood as strategies to achieve ethical change in food systems and, as such, ethics play a guiding role. But local food is also a social movement and, thus social and political theories provide unique insights during analysis. This paper begins with the position that ontology should play a more prominent part in the analysis of local food movements, as this lens could provide unique insights into basic commitments guiding such initiatives. The paper presents the argument that ontological analyses are imperative for fully understanding local food movements. It then provides an overview of the justice frameworks and ontological orientations that guide two dominant types of initiatives: Those committed to increasing food security and those committed to food sovereignty. The paper ends with the argument that food sovereignty projects are revolutionary, not only because they challenge us to change industrial food practices, but also because they are built on a radical new political ontology, and co-constitutive food-focused orientation, that forms the foundation for alternative social and political structures.
Local food initiatives are steadily becoming a part of contemporary food systems and take on many forms, from school gardens to farmers markets (Holt-Gimenez et al. 2011; DeLind 2011; Martinez et al. 2010). This flexibility is due in part to the fact that local food projects can differ from region to region, as communities have a multiplicity of needs, food cultures vary, and environmental factors (such as climates, soil types, etc.) fluctuate. However, most researchers accept the following broad understanding of what constitutes local food: Local food is the attempt to minimize the distance between production, processing, and consumption of products in food systems, especially in relation to current industrial agricultural systems (Brain 2012; Peters et al. 2008). There are…
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