The industrial food system of the West is increasingly perceived as problematic. The physical, social and intellectual distance between consumers and their food stems from a food system that privileges quantity and efficiency over quality, with an underlying assumption that food is a commodity, rather than a source of nourishment and pleasure. In the wake of various food and health scares, there is a growing demand from consumers to change the food they eat, which in turn acts as a catalyst for the industry to adapt and for alternative systems to evolve. Drawing on a wealth of empirical research into mainstream and alternative North American food systems, this book discusses how sustainable, grass roots, local food systems offer a template for meaningful individual activism as a way to bring about change from the bottom up, while at the same time creating pressure for policy changes at all levels of government. This movement signals a shift away from market economy principles and reflects a desire to embody social and ecological values as the foundation for future growth.
Dr Alison Blay-Palmer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
'The book starts with food safety horrors that everyone can relate to. But that's just the hook for a history tour and then a global romp through food system turmoil that's producing so much to be scared about and - here's the nice surprise - so much more to be hopeful about. It has great "big picture" advice for people who want to improve the food system, including cautionary tales of how some movements got trapped by their own simplistic rhetoric, and shrewd reminders about the differences between "alternative" and "oppositional" thinking. Reading it is the perfect brainstorming exercise for volunteers and staff working to sustain community food projects, and for activists trying to coax governments into coming on side with new health and environmental concerns around food.' Wayne Roberts, Toronto Food Policy Council, Canada 'This is a welcome addition to the burgeoning agri-food literature. One of the many merits of the book is the way it shows that, far from being set in aspic, the food culture of North America is reacting against the industrialization of the agri-food system, creating new opportunities for "alternative" foods - such as local, organic, fair traded and the like. Perhaps the most important message of the book is that alternative foods create spaces for alternative social movements, enabling eaters to replace their fear-of-food with pleasure-in-food.' Kevin Morgan, University of Cardiff, UK '...a well-referenced discussion...Recommended.' Choice 'Alternative food advocates as well as agrifood scholars and students will find these texts well worth reading.' Environment and Planning A