“Food Justice, and Food Sovereignty: Strange Bedfellows or Systemic Supports?”

Members of the Case Western Reserve University community are invited to join the Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health for a seminar event Tuesday, April 16, from 9 to 10 a.m. via Zoom.

Jill Clark from Ohio State University and Katie Merritt, an undergraduate CWRU student, will present on their research in a talk titled “Social Enterprise, Food Justice, and Food Sovereignty: Strange Bedfellows or Systemic Supports?” The talk is free and open to the public.

Register to attend.

About the talk

There is a debate in the literature about whether one can address food system problems with market-based approaches while seeking food justice or food sovereignty. However, as part of a team of researchers and community leaders, the presenters found this debate is less relevant in practice. 

As such, they were motivated to ask: How do social enterprises (SEs) interact with food justice and food sovereignty movements and their visions in order to realize more democratic and equitable local food systems in communities? 

To answer this question, they conducted a systematic review. Analyzing nine articles, which included 17 food-related SEs, they found evidence of potential interactions between food SEs, food justice and food sovereignty that are compatible (e.g., create employment) and incompatible (e.g., limited ability to address issues like community employability and green gentrification). 

The literature includes at least three important characteristics that inform how food-related SEs may interact with food justice and sovereignty, including employee and ownership demographics, the enterprise business model, and aspects of the food system targeted by the enterprise via market activities.

If one considers a systems perspective, they can envision the ways in which the aspects are embedded and interdependent in a neoliberal society. SEs, as market-based agents for social change, exist in the same system as justice and sovereignty.