A moveable feast: Contemporary relational food cultures emerging from local food networks

Gabrielle O'KANE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Although the globalised food system delivers unparalleled food variety and quantity to most in the developed world it also disconnects consumers from where, how and by whom food is grown. This change in the food system has resulted in an acceptance of an anonymous and homogeneous food supply, which has contributed to over-consumption and the rise in diet-related diseases. 'Nutritionism' responds to this issue by maintaining that a 'healthy diet' can be achieved by consuming the correct balance of energy and nutrients, but with limited success. Yet, some food cultures can moderate the effects of the environmental drivers of increasing global obesity rates. This paper draws on this premise and presents an alternative eco-dietetic response, exploring people's meaning-making of food and food culture through local food networks.This research used narrative inquiry methodology and purposive sampling to gather stories through focus group conversations. Twenty people attended focus groups comprised of food procurers from one of three local food networks in the Canberra region: community gardens, a modified Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farmers' markets.The findings showed that those using local food networks enjoyed a 'contemporary relational food culture' that highlighted the importance of people, place and time, in their visceral experiences of food. The community gardeners made meaning of food through their connections to the earth and to others. The farmers' market and CSA food procurers valued the seasonal, local and ethical food produced by their beloved farmer(s). This paper provides qualitative evidence that local food networks enable people to enjoy multi-dimensional relationships to food. Further research is required to examine whether experiencing a contemporary relational food culture can lead to improved health outcomes for people and the planet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-231
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


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