Civil society engagement in food systems governance in Canada
Experiences, gaps, and possibilities
Keywords:Civil Society, Canada, COVID-19, Pandemic, Food Movements, Food Systems, Governance, Indigenous-Settler Relationships, Labor
Civil society organizations (CSOs) commonly experience food systems governance as imposed by governments from the top down and as unduly influenced by a small group of private sector actors that hold disproportionate power. This uneven influence significantly impacts the activities and relationships that determine the nature and orientation of food systems. In contrast, some CSOs have sought to establish participatory governance structures that are more democratic, accessible, collaborative, and rooted in social and environmental justice. Our research seeks to better understand the experiences of CSOs across the food systems governance landscape and critically analyze the successes, challenges, and future opportunities for establishing collaborative governance processes with the goal of building healthier, sustainable, and more equitable food systems. This paper presents findings from a survey of CSOs in Canada to identify who is involved in this work, key policy priorities, and opportunities and limitations experienced. Following the survey, we conducted interviews with a broad cross-section of CSO representatives to deepen our understanding of experiences engaging with food systems governance. Our findings suggest that what food systems governance is, how it is experienced, and what more participatory structures might look like are part of an emergent and contested debate. We argue for increased scholarly attention to the ways that proponents of place-based initiatives engage in participatory approaches to food systems governance, examining both current and future possibilities. We conclude by identifying five key gaps in food systems governance that require additional focus and study: (1) Describing the myriad meanings of participatory food systems governance; (2) Learning from food movement histories; (3) Deepening meaningful Indigenous-settler relationships; (4) Addressing food systems labor issues; and (5) Considering participatory food systems governance in the context of COVID-19.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Charles Z. Levkoe, Peter Andrée, Patricia Ballamingie, Kirsti Tasala, Amanda Wilson, Monika Korzun
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