Food and Fairness: Social justice and the plight of small scale food enterprises in Kingston, Jamaica

Authors: Robert Kinlocke*, Balsillie School of International Affairs
Topics: Social Geography, Development, Urban Geography
Keywords: food, food systems, informality, social justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Small scale food enterprises occupy a critical space in the food system of Kingston, Jamaica. While they serve the entire population, poor urban households are disproportionately reliant on small scale food retailers. The nodes and networks of retailers play an important role in the value and commodity chain by providing access to comparatively cheap food but are often impacted by economic vagaries and state level regulation amongst other factors which potentially challenge the sustainability of the trade. These issues are potentially offset by a highly dynamic system where entry into the trade is maintained by the high levels of unemployment and limited alternatives, even in the informal sector. While the challenges are the likely result of state-level deficiencies, it is possible that these problems are both alleviated and exacerbated by various the strategies used to claim space and negotiate food-based livelihoods in the city. This research attempts to fulfil a conspicuous gap in the literature by examining the pathology of the urban food system as it relates to the challenges and experiences of small scale food retailers. The results are based on a combination of questionnaire surveys and interviews of small scale food retailers in the city. They indicate that deficiencies in state support are compensated by high reliance on inwardly focused networks. Small scale entrepreneurs are face additional challenges which may be addressed through the development of policy initiatives which specifically target this marginalized group.

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