As popular interest in food and agriculture has grown, so have an array of social movements intent on improving the ways we grow, raise, process, sell, and consume our sustenance. While scholars tend to agree with activists’ critical assessments of the failures of the industrial, corporate, chemically intensive food system, they often wonder whether the sustainable, local alternatives that activists recommend are sufficient for broad social transformation. Two scholarly critiques of US alternative food systems revolve around issues of food justice, meaning the ways that race, class, and gender affect who can produce and consume what kinds of foods, and neoliberalism, which refers to activists’ privileging of voluntary, market-centric strategies over those that appeal to the regulatory power of the state. This paper lays out three strategies through which the work of US food justice activists can address both critiques. These include cooperative ownership, organizing labor, and pushing to outlaw risky technologies. However, rather than being at odds with the alternative foods market, each strategy makes use of it as a venue from which to draw targeted support.
Food Justice and the Challenge to Neoliberalism
Alison Hope Alkon is assistant professor and chair of sociology at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. Her research seeks to understand how inequalities of race and class affect and can be addressed through sustainable food systems. She is author of Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy and co-editor of Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability.
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Alison Hope Alkon; Food Justice and the Challenge to Neoliberalism. Gastronomica 1 May 2014; 14 (2): 27–40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2014.14.2.27
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