Defining ‘local’ food

By Alanna Linn

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland interrupted not only holidays but also the international transport of food. Media reports from around the globe discussed the potential disruption of supplies to supermarket shelves, as well as the financial impact on exporters, especially in Africa.

The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull has highlighted both the distance that food travels to reach UK shores, and the UK’s reliance on imported food supplies – currently around 40%. This in turn has led to some commentators questioning whether the fall out of the Icelandic volcano signals a need for the UK to obtain a greater degree of its food from ‘local’ sources, or at least for more people to question and understand the sources of our food.

Central to these discussions is the question of whether ‘local’ is better. A new paper in Geography Compass by Edmund Harris explores the importance of ‘local’ to alternative food networks.  Harris observes that defining ‘local’ within research around alternative food networks can be both complex and problematic, and suggests that there is scope for tgreater interaction with human geography theory around place and space. Such an approach could facilitate more nuanced understandings of ‘local’, without losing its power in food activism.

Read media reports on the impact of the volcano eruption on food transport in The Guardian, London Evening Standard and ABC news

Read Edmund Harris’ paper in Geography Compass

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