Responsive community-based food security and food system reform? Pandemic possibilities and pivots for alternative food systems in Colorado

Authors: Sophie Dasaro*, University of Colorado Boulder
Topics: Food Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Alternative food systems, COVID-19, local food operations, disaster response
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: Download

The unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19 have revealed not only weaknesses in our food systems, but also opportunities for food systems reform. While conventional food systems often demonstrate lack of resiliency or adaptability to change in response to shocks (Schuller and Maldonado, 2016), community-based food production and distribution channels may hold insight for effective, responsive disaster mitigation and food system redesign (Pretty, 2020). National leadership and conventional food industries have failed to address increasing financial and food insecurity brought on by pandemic, and in turn, many community-based food initiatives have mobilized to fill gaps in services.

Based on in-depth qualitative research with community-based food operations in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, our findings analyze precisely how these community-oriented food production and distribution models have pivoted their logistical and strategic operations. These results highlight that flexible, resource-efficient, and socially-focused community food operations have emerged during the pandemic as reliable and essential food sources upon which people rely. Finally, this research offers strategies to expand community participation and outreach. Our findings challenge geographers to consider community-oriented food systems not (just) as fringe alternatives, but as leaders in shaping future food systems. Food systems can become more efficient and socially-just through community-based operations, as the pandemic and resulting mobilization have highlighted.


Pretty, J. (2020). New opportunities for the redesign of agricultural and food systems. Agriculture and Human Values, 37, 629-630.

Schuller, M. and Maldondado, J.K. (2016). Disaster capitalism. Annals of Anthropological Practice, 40, 61-72.

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