Resilience and transformation: lessons from the UK local food sector in the COVID-19 pandemic

Jones, Stephen, Krzywoszynska, Anna and Maye, Damian ORCID: 0000-0002-4459-6630 (2022) Resilience and transformation: lessons from the UK local food sector in the COVID-19 pandemic. Geographical Journal, 188 (2). pp. 209-222. doi:10.1111/geoj.12428

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How to ensure resilience of food systems is a key concern in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, there is a renewed interest in the role of local food systems from policy, academic, and third sector actors, who see those systems as a source of ‘bounce-back’ resilience, supporting existing structures, but also as sources of ‘bounce forward’ transformative resilience. Both perspectives move debates around local food systems beyond the dominant focus on social exclusion (defensive localism). The capacity of the local food sector to provide either form of resilience depends on the resilience of the local food actors themselves, which has been little investigated to date. This paper addresses this important gap in scholarship through an investigation of the ‘bounce-back’ and the ‘bounce-forward’ resilience of local food actors in the UK during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We advance resilience scholarship by developing an analytical framework which combines attention to resilience characteristics (‘what is there’) and to the systemic forces which enable and constrain their development (‘how things work’). Attention to social capital, we argue, is crucial to understanding transformative resilience. We present rich qualitative data to illustrate the multi-faceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local food system actors in the UK. This is complimented with a review of relevant policy and third sector publications which contextualise local food system efforts. We conclude that while strong bonding and bridging capitals support the local food sector’s persistence and adaptability, a lack of linking social capital, most visible as a ‘middle class image problem’, is preventing it from achieving a transformative role. We argue that the local food sector needs to form alliances which would move it beyond a single issue topic, and articulate local food as part of place-centred community resilience strategies that foster social capacities.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human geography. Human ecology. Anthropogeography
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Sofia Raseta
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2021 13:13
Last Modified: 12 May 2023 14:58

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