Building Capacity Between the Private Emergency Food System and the Local Food Movement: Working Toward Food Justice and Sovereignty in the Global North
AbstractOne area of food system research that remains overlooked in terms of making urban-rural distinctions explicit is the private emergency food system of food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters that exists throughout the United States. This system is an important one for millions of food-insecure individuals and today serves nearly as many individuals as public food assistance. In this article, we present an exploratory case that presents findings from research looking at the private emergency food system of a rural county in northern New England, U.S. Specifically, we examine the history of this national network to contextualize our findings and then discuss possibilities for collaboration between this private system and the local food movement (on behalf of both the public and the state). These collaborations present an opportunity in the short term to improve access to high quality local foods for insecure populations, and in the long term to challenge the systemic income and race-based inequalities that increasingly define the modern food system and are the result of prioritizing market-based reforms that re-create inequality at the local and regional levels. We propose alternatives to these approaches that emphasize the ability to ensure adequate food access for vulnerable populations, as well as the right to define, structure, and control how food is produced beyond food consumerism (i.e., voting with our dollars), but through efforts increasingly aligned with a food sovereignty agenda.
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