"Thousands of miles fresher": Deconstructing the local in farm-to-school

Open Access
Anderson, Lauren Meredith
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Brian King, Thesis Advisor
  • farm-to-school
  • local food
  • North Carolina
In the United States, opposition to the current food system has inspired several movements, including sustainability, community food security and reducing the loss of small family farms. At the same time, an increased awareness of chronic food-related illness in children has resulted in a focus on nutrition education and childhood obesity prevention. Emerging farm-to-school (FTS) programs, which connect “local” farmers to nearby schools, are at the convergence of these issues. An important feature of the FTS program is that it represents the move to “re-localize” and create more sustainable, small-scale food systems that promote regional economies by buying local food for cafeterias while providing fresher, healthier meals for children. While these goals are significant to many FTS programs in the country, there is not a consensus on how to define “local” and, thus, why buying local food is important for schools and farming economies. This thesis draws on empirical research from the Appalachian region of North Carolina to examine how key actors within FTS programs define local food, along with perceived benefits and barriers of buying local food for schools. It addresses the spatiality of food systems, including the reification of local as an alternative to the globalized food system. I argue that tensions exist in defining local, which reflects the nature of local as a flexible concept and a practice. This has implications for the realities of being able to buy locally and how these realities are challenged by the ways in which local is imagined within these programs.