David Watson

Assessing the contribution of a more localised food system to well-being

David Watson

PhD student, University of Essex

Start of the project: October 2012

Funding: Essex Doctoral Training Centre and East of England Co-operative Society

Abstract: Interest in local food has grown markedly over recent years, the centrality and importance of food in our lives draws interest from academics, policy makers, business and the public in general. Consequently the current literature around local food is disparate being informed by a wide range of ontological and epistemological approaches. Implicit in the majority of this literature is the view that local food is somehow better for us. Research to date has identified a range of health, social, environmental and economic benefits associated with local food, but critics have questioned whether a more localised food system can make a substantial contribution to our wellbeing.  At the same time the proportion of local food that makes up the food economy, although growing, remains small, this raises questions over consumer appetite for change and the capability of local food systems to offer a credible alternative to the predominantly global market. There is then a need for a theoretical approach that can incorporate the many dimensions of local food systems and offer a way of quantifying their value. This research will seek to identify elements of local food systems that impact on wellbeing, and assess how they positively contribute to it. This framework will support an approach that not only looks at particular aspects or settings in local food systems but will also take a more holistic view of how food systems can contribute to both individual and community wellbeing.

Contact: djwats AT essex.ac.uk