Moving Towards the Local: The Barriers and Opportunities for Localizing Food Systems in Canada
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Increasing globalization of the food system has led to a loss of food sovereignty and security in communities throughout the world. This globalized system has adopted industrial techniques of standardization and specialization as the solution to producing an abundant cheap food supply. Over time this system has become concentrated in the hands of a few transnational corporations that increasingly control every step of production from farm inputs, to distributing and processing. As a result, we have experienced the emergence of a counter movement to the corporate controlled and globally sourced dominant food system we have today. The rise of local food systems in industrialized countries developed to help solve the issues created by the current food system. This study provides insight into the barriers and opportunities to the development of local food systems, as well as the universality of these barriers. To achieve this, a multi-case study was conducted in Nelson, British Columbia; Lethbridge, Alberta; and Waterloo, Ontario. In each of these locations information was consolidated from food 'experts' or key informants, consumers, farmers, and supermarket owners/managers. Research methods included semi-structured interviews, a consumer survey, interpretation of government documents, and study site observation. Results from this study add to the empirical work on local food systems in Canada and offer a multi-stakeholder perspective of the barriers and opportunities to localization efforts. Findings suggest that the barriers to the development of local food systems are largely universal and are supportive of other empirical and theoretical works. Barriers included issues such as federal agricultural policy, health and safety regulations, consolidation of food retailing, and a demand for cheap food. The opportunities for a local food system, although more diverse and different between regions, can all for the most part be universally applied. While many opportunities exist for municipalities to enhance local food in their region, barriers created by government and industry will ultimately limit any notable movement toward a more localized food system without more significant policy changes from above. This study supports the idea that local food systems will require government assistance in order for changes from the grassroots to make significant strides in becoming less dependent on food imports.