Food justice

“Food justice seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly. Food justice represents a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities.”(Gottlieb and Joshi, 2010). Cadieux and Slocum (2015) elaborate on transformation to include four  points of intervention:

  1. Trauma and Inequity: addressing deeply structural and historical trauma and inequities;
  2. Exchange: basing exchange systems on trust and cooperation;
  3. Land: ensuring equitable access to and control over resources with respect for
    all life;
  4. Labour: ensuring worker safety, value, and fair compensation.

Brady (2019) in turn adds individual and community autonomy over what constitutes healthy eating to Cadieux and Slocum's conception, describing her framework as nutrition justice.

Gibb and Wittman (2013) identify three critical and inter-related dimensions of food justice:

  • who does and doesn't benefit from the distribution of material goods:
  • who is represented and has power in the procedures that determine distribution
  • whose knowledge is privileged (and whose is ignored, dismissed, disappeared)

The failure to attend to food justice results in reinforcing the dominant groups, processes and institutions.

Valley et al.  (2020) set out a food justice competency model for education with four domains: "Awareness of Self; Awareness of Others and One’s Interactions with Them; Awareness of Systems of Oppression; and Strategies and Tactics for Dismantling Inequities."

Commensality (adapted from Watson, 2020)

Research has shown that social eating behaviors (consuming meals with friends, family, or colleagues) can increase happiness, improve trust levels, develop social networks, and increase community engagement (Dunbar, 2017). Additionally, those that dine as a family show improved nutritional balance, enhanced psychosocial functioning, and even advanced literacy and language skills (Villares and Segovia, 2006). As consumers often look for meals that are the quickest or most convenient, seated meals shared as a group are slowly becoming an event of a past generation. More recently, 20% of meals in North America are eaten in cars, so many of the social benefits of sharing meals  are  lost (Pollan, 2009).

The cultural turn

Associated with human geography and other social sciences and humanities, the cultural turn places culture, and the related meanings and symbols, at the center of methodological and theoretical approaches to investigating phenomena. It represented in geography a movement away from just spatial analysis and in political economy, a rejection of the 'grand ideas' approach to analysis.  It can be seen as a way of integrated a range of disciplines across the social sciences and humanities.  See Jackson (2010) for a history pertinent to geographers.

Food systems of the middle

Building on conceptions of agriculture of the middle and partially in response to the limitations of value-based supply chain approaches, food systems of the middle builds in the key roles of small to medium scale food system actors and public institutions as means to counter the inherent power dynamics of the dominant food system.  This approach attempts to bring the 'public' to conceptualizations that focus primarily on the private sector dynamics of the conventional food system.  A key component of this approach is rebuilding public infrastructure, or what Stahlbrand (2017) calls "infrastructure of the middle".  This includes both hard  - roads, warehouses, distribution centres and processing facilities- and soft infrastructure – the relationships, civil society organizations and community capital - that often surrounds the hard infrastructure to make if function.

Community Capital Framework (adapted from Spring et al., 2018)

With roots in the Sustainable Livelihoods approach, this framework (CCF) has seven dimensions of community capital: natural, social, cultural, political, built, financial, and human.  It is increasingly used to describe a community's capacity to adapt to stressors such as climate change.

Social Economy (adapted from Ballimingie et al., 2019)

A general term, also called the ‘collective economy’ or ‘third sector,’ that includes numerous activities and organizational forms, the social economy  refers to collective economic activities where economic benefits are blended with a wide range of social purposes and values.  Organizationally, it includes cooperatives, credit unions, and some not-for-profit organizations. Social economy stands in contrast to the neoliberal economic order.