Making Place for Local Food: Reflections on Institutional Procurement and the Alberta Flavour Learning Lab
Part case study, part reflective essay, this paper examines questions of place and scale in relationship to local food initiatives and, in particular, institutional procurement. A recent emphasis on “place-based” rather than “local” food systems presents an opportunity to ask, What would local food look like here? The Canadian province of Alberta is a unique place defined by a set of geographical, historical, and cultural relationships and connections around food. Through the case of the Alberta Flavour Learning Lab (Alberta Flavour), an institutional procurement initiative focused on “scaling-up” local food, we discuss how an increased emphasis on context and place activates strategic directions for thinking about food system change. We consider Alberta Flavour as a site of strategic localism that involves actively crafting a scale of local food that functions within a particular context. Rather than reinforcing divides between conventional and alternative food systems, Alberta Flavour interfaces between the broader values of the local food movement and the current realities of Alberta’s agri-food landscape and culture. We argue that the initiative’s hybrid and pragmatic approach to “getting more local food on more local plates,” while not radical, nonetheless contributes to positive food system change through “transformative incrementalism” (Buchan, Cloutier, & Friedman, in press).
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