How alternative are the alternatives? A conceptual framework for analysis of control and value distribution in alternative food networks Public Deposited

The conventional food system can be characterized by long intermediated supply chains, industrialization, corporatization, and concentrated ownership. A movement towards an alternative system that reconnects producers with consumers through a shared commitment to sustainability and community has developed as a result. As the alternative food system scales to meet growing consumer demand, however, many alternative food networks (AFNs) appear to be following conventional logic and economic models, which begs the question: how alternative are the alternatives? This research introduces and develops the Alterity Framework to analyze the distribution of control and value across the supply chains of five AFN models: CSA, farmers’ markets, wholesale distribution, food hubs, and multi-stakeholder cooperatives. Developed through literature review, critical discourse analysis, and participatory action research, the conceptual framework combines several principles of the Diverse Economies, Extractive/Generative Economies, Value Chain, and Food Sovereignty frameworks to assess AFN models based on: 1) the links of the supply chain that connect stakeholders; 2) the relationships among stakeholders; 3) the ways in which economic value is produced, appropriated and distributed; 4) the distribution of risks assumed by stakeholders; and 5) the structure and mechanisms that govern supply chain activities and stakeholders. This research suggests that the Alterity Framework can help to distinguish the differences between extractive and generative practices, suggest ways to structure value chains that incorporate sustainable and efficient activities, and provide a new perspective on how we think and act about the diverse political economy of food. Overall, it demonstrates that it is necessary to address underlying ownership structures in order to scale sustainable and just local food systems.

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