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The Promises and Pitfalls of Alternative Food Institutions: Impacts on and Barriers to Engagement with Low-Income Persons in the United States and Canada

Food Systems and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78635-092-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-091-6

ISSN: 1057-6290

Publication date: 29 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

As a movement for alternative means of food production and consumption has grown, so, too, have civic efforts to make alternative food accessible to low-income persons (LIPs). This article examines the impact of alternative food institutions (AFIs) on low-income communities in the United States and Canada, focusing on research published since 2008.

Methodology/approach

Through a three-stage literature search, I created a database of 110 articles that make empirical or theoretical contributions to scholarly knowledge on the relationship of AFIs to low-income communities in North America. I used an in vivo coding scheme to categorize the impacts that AFIs have on LIPs and to identify predominant barriers to LIPs’ engagement with AFIs.

Findings

The impacts of AFIs span seven outcome categories: food consumption, food access and security, food skills, economic, other health, civic, and neighborhood. Economic, social and cultural barriers impede LIPs’ engagement with AFIs. AFIs can promote positive health outcomes for low-income persons when they meet criteria for affordability, convenience and inclusivity.

Implications

This review exposes productive avenues of dialogue between health scholars and medical sociology and geography/environmental sociology. Health scholarship offers empirical support for consumer-focused solutions. Conversely, by constructively critiquing the neoliberal underpinnings of AFIs’ discourse and structure, geographers and sociologists supply health scholars with a language that may enable more systemic interventions.

Originality/value

This article is the first to synthesize research on five categories of alternative food institutions (farmers’ markets, CSAs, community gardens, urban farms, and food cooperatives) across disciplinary boundaries.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the editor, anonymous reviewers, Ken Kolb, and Kristy Maher for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Citation

Jonason, A. (2017), "The Promises and Pitfalls of Alternative Food Institutions: Impacts on and Barriers to Engagement with Low-Income Persons in the United States and Canada", Food Systems and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 149-175. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-629020170000018007

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited