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Accepted Paper:

"We all need to go to business school": negotiating the value of work in UK food activism  
Hannah Roberson (Rachel Carson Center, LMU Munich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the effects of the recession and austerity measures for urban food-growing activists in London, UK, with a particular focus on how funders’ changing priorities shaped food-growing labour.

Paper long abstract:

At the start of the recession, and with the election of the right-wing Conservative government on an austerity platform in 2010, food activists in Britain faced the end of (relatively) easily available grant funding for food-growing projects. Public financial and institutional support now targeted projects that took an active role in raising their own revenue. Anticipating a need to sustain projects in other ways, continue their work without financial support, or transform themselves as organizations in order to remain fundable in the current climate, many activists began to focus more on making food-growing projects economically self-sustaining. Based on research with food activists at a plant nursery in London, this paper explores the tensions, convergences and contestations between activists' efforts to build alternative economies through food-growing, and neoliberal reforms which sought to mobilize local groups within public service provision to mask the effects of state retrenchment. Such struggles emerged particularly over the value and values attached to work, as funding meant activists could be paid for work that had previously been done on a voluntary basis, and enabled the plant nursery to run training courses and offer volunteering opportunities that chimed with the government's objectives to get more people into paid work. Political discourses about work, employability and volunteering shaped understandings of food-growing work as a 'luxury', as a route into paid employment, or as a process of individual or collective transformation.

Panel P015
Food value and values in Europe: economic legacies and alternative futures in production and consumption
  Session 1