Sustainable Food Networks as Chains of Values

Sustainable food networks (SFNs) pretend to build a healthy, fair, localized, and inclusive food supply model, alternative to the current hegemony of the corporate food system and its long-haul, sophisticated, and thus fragile, food supply chains. However, these SFNs (e.g. community-supported agriculture, box schemes, farmers’ markets, food co-ops, food hubs, cooperative supermarkets, responsible public procurement… among many other arrangements) have not been scrutinized under the lens of the main theories and concepts of economic geography yet.

Namely, value chain approaches may shed light on the alleged alternativeness of SFNs. It is commonly argued that corporate food value chains focus on volume (high) and price (low) at the expense of social and environmental welfare. SFNs, on the opposite, rely on small-batch production, environmentally friendly processes, few intermediaries, geographical proximity, participatory decision-making frameworks, and mutual trust among all actors involved. Values other than profit, as communitarianism, autonomy, inclusiveness, solidarity, sustainability, equity, care, or direct democracy, are supposed to inform the daily operation of SFNs.

Nevertheless, academic literature is short of theoretical and empirical papers that reflect upon the following questions about SFN as chains of values, in plural: