Despite their opposition to the dominant agri-food system, alternative agri-food initiatives may unwittingly reproduce central features of neoliberalism. Julie Guthman has been a particularly strong proponent of this view, arguing that food activism and neoliberalism have shaped one another dialectically in California in recent decades. This paper responds to her argument, with a view to distinguishing between what it reveals and what it may conceal about the transformative potential of alternative agri-food initiatives in North America. Drawing on primary research on a variety of community-based food initiatives in Eastern Ontario, Canada, we show how a neoliberal lens does help to illuminate some problematic characteristics of these initiatives, including assumptions about market-based solutions and focus on self-improvement at the expense of state involvement. However, this lens underestimates those aspects of community-based food initiatives that may appear commensurate with neoliberal rationalities but which also push in more progressive directions.

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Keywords Community food initiatives, Food access, Food justice, Local food, Neoliberalism
Persistent URL
Journal Local Environment
Andrée, P, Ballamingie, P, & Sinclair-Waters, B. (Brynne). (2015). Neoliberalism and the making of food politics in Eastern Ontario. Local Environment, 20(12), 1452–1472. doi:10.1080/13549839.2014.908277