Accepted Paper:

Food (inter)activism: fixing the food system one small state(ment) at a time  


Kathleen Riley (Rutgers University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation is a report on a project designed to analyze how “local food” is being produced, distributed, and consumed, both materially and discursively, in the state of VT as a strategy for transforming destructive aspects of our present-day globalized food system.

Paper long abstract:

The last couple of decades have seen a proliferation of individuals, government institutions, NGOs, and businesses committed to fixing the world's broken food system. Food activists are variously concerned with taste, health, social justice, and the environment. Most understand that the problems are deep and systemic; therefore, a wide range of strategies (from policy-making and food education to social entrepreneurship and performance art) have been devised to transform these destructive foodways. This presentation will analyze one such strategy found in the small state of Vermont; the use of 'local' branding to sell value-added products made in Vermont with Vermont-grown ingredients processed by real Vermonters with genuine Vermont methods (or at least some combination of these Vermonty qualia). The data for this study take the form of websites and other online media (newspaper articles, research papers, and grey literature generated by governments, NGOs and businesses) collected over the course of 6 months and analyzed as discourse - i.e., textual forms used to construct, circulate, and socialize the notion of "local food" as a means for promoting the health, wealth, and sociopsychological well-being of local communities and their physical environments. The objectives of this study are to 1) map examples of this strategy, 2) deconstruct the communicative strategies employed, and 3) set the stage for conducting ethnographic research in one or more of these actual settings, in order to assess the actual efficacy of this discursive strategy on the ground. This presentation is a preliminary report on the virtual end of the study.

Panel LL-FWF02
Minimize the movement: producing and consuming local food