Food Justice and Municipal Government in the USA

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Planning Theory & Practice

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This article examines the potential and limits of municipal food systems planning in advancing food justice in the USA. The alternative food movement is growing in response to the recognized problems of the dominant food system. Scholars argue that food justice provides an important orientation for alternative food movement efforts (Holt-Giménez & Wang 2011). Food justice contests race and class-based inequalities associated with the production, distribution, and consumption of food, promotes democratic participation in food systems decision-making, and establishes non-capitalist and non-exploitative alternatives (Alkon, Alkon, A. H. (2013).

This article examines two cases of municipal food systems planning in western Washington: the PSRFPC and the City of Seattle. Using document analysis, observations and interviews, I assess how these cases have confronted five major aspects of food justice, including trauma/inequity, land, labor, exchange and democratic process. For both cases, I examine where municipal planning has gained some momentum towards fostering food justice, and identify where it is getting stuck and what might enable it to move forward. The findings show that municipal planning in these two cases offers some tentative support for the values of food justice. Other municipalities may learn from these examples. Ultimately, this article argues that municipal government can play an important role in fostering food justice. However, municipal government also faces constraints, which, if not addressed, pose critical limitations to municipal support for food justice.


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