The Neoliberal Economy of Food Security: Evaluating the Ability of the Local Food System around Athens, Ohio to Address Food Insecurity

Authors: Angela Chapman*, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group, Harold Perkins*, Ohio University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: political economy, neoliberalism, food security, local food systems, scale
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Local food systems have emerged as a potential solution to both the ills of the global food system and as a means of increasing the food security of low-income people through access to healthy, locally grown foods. However, empirical research provides evidence of the difficulty food systems encounter addressing food insecurity due to deeply-imbedded structures such as inequality, neoliberal entitlement cuts, and the market-based economy. Still, additional research is needed to understand the relationship between these processes at the local level. The Athens County, Ohio region has a thriving local food system with hundreds of individuals working to facilitate and promote the local food system and address food insecurity. Nevertheless, in 2015, Athens County had a food insecurity rate of 20.4 percent, higher than the national average of 13.4 percent. This research addresses ways in which the Athens local food system exhibits elements of neoliberalism through themes of market development, emphasis on personal responsibility, and reliance on charity. These themes are indicative of the neoliberal shift of responsibility for well-being away from the state towards individuals and community groups and the belief that the market is the site where social issues like food security are best addressed. Each of these themes creates constraints for actors in the local food system, limiting their ability to decrease low-income food insecurity. These findings indicate the embeddedness of neoliberal logic and the resulting constraints on progress toward ending food insecurity at the local scale.

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