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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From corporate to connected : resisting food system distancing in India and Canada Rideout, Karen Lynne


The mainstream western food system is built on industrial production, processing, packaging, and distribution of highly processed food products that are detrimental to dietary, social, and ecological health. This unhealthy food system is characterized by a growing physical and conceptual distance between the production and consumption of food. Although distancing is often cited as a problem within the industrial food system, little is known about how it manifests in people’s lives or how best to address the problem of distancing in the food system. By examining the perspectives and motivations of people who are engaged in resisting distancing, this research highlights the meaning and value of food in their lives and shows how a focus on the intrinsic value of food can support healthy food systems change. This study examined how individuals in India and Canada resisted food system distancing, how they understood the problem of distancing, and assessed their motivations to resist. Thirty-seven semi-structured interviews were conducted in a qualitative, cross-cultural comparative study. Distancing and industrialization were seen as mutually supportive phenomena that concentrate power in middle spaces occupied by large corporations, usually to the detriment of individual producers and consumers of food. Although resisters in India and Canada were experiencing different levels of food system industrialization, participants in both countries felt that industrialization contributed to changes in social norms and individual values which, once normalized, facilitated further distancing. The primary motivation of the research participants was a belief that food has intrinsic or sacred value. Resisters in India used more explicitly spiritual language, but people in both countries described how recognition of the intrinsic value of food provided a source of deep spiritual meaning in their lives. Based on the interpretations and motivations of these resisters, this study concludes that there is a need for a paradigm shift in how food is conceptualized in mainstream society. This would require a broad, systemic approach designed to enable recognition of food’s intrinsic value and support meaningful connections around food without codifying ideological visions of a singular “right” kind of food system.

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