Building municipal food governance: A new potential for a coordinated and just food system across the country Public Deposited

An increasing number of alternative food initiatives (AFIs) are working to address inequities within the current food system. Despite their valiant efforts, key obstacles in coordinating diverse initiatives, recognizing food justice, and providing equal access to resources across the nation prevent development of an equitable food system. While AFIs are traditionally pursued by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government-led, municipal food governance is on the rise and may be able to respond to these persistent obstacles. It remains unclear, however, if municipalities, as multi-departmental entities with the ability to engage in structural change and the potential to exist evenly across the country with equal access to resources, are capitalizing on their unique traits and position to contribute to an equitable food system. This research examines municipalities’ roles in the food system in order to understand obstacles to and opportunities for achieving food system equity through municipal food governance. Using the conceptual and analytical frameworks of collective impact, food justice, and the right to food to guide a policy analysis of municipal food governance, I find that municipalities are not recognizing, nor capitalizing on, their position as government entities. Instead, they often approach food system governance as NGO AFIs, overlooking their ability to create structural change. Nonetheless, their unique government position allows for viable opportunities for overcoming these obstacles. Building on these, I offer a path forward to advance municipalities’ burgeoning efforts in food governance through the creation of nationally-supported, municipal departments of food.

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