What is a food system? Exploring enactments of the food system multiple
Recent years have seen widespread calls to transform food systems to address complex demands such as feeding a growing global population while reducing environmental impacts. But what is a food system and how can we most effectively work to change it? “Food System” can be found describing more limited dietary regimens as well as sector-specific supply chains going back to the 1930s, but its use to describe very large, dynamic, coupled socio-ecological systems gained traction in academic and civil society publications in the 1990s and this use of the term has increased dramatically in recent years. When the influential food system actors from non-governmental organizations, foundations, consultancies, and the UN that this research focuses on talk about food systems, they seem to be talking about the same thing. Yet the interpretive flexibility of the concept obfuscates that people may have very different framings that may be deeply incompatible. Drawing from interviews, participant observation, and document analysis, this paper examines what food systems thinking does in terms of setting the stage for how we enact the food system and efforts to intervene in it. It reveals that rather than leading to more expansive understanding, the unexamined use of the concept food system might actually serve to sharpen divides.
© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agriculture and Human Values, 2023, available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10460-023-10457-z . Keywords: food systems; systems thinking; transformation.
Brock, S. What is a food system? Exploring enactments of the food system multiple. Agric Hum Values (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-023-10457-z