Towards a trans-local food governance: Exploring the transformative capacity of food policy assemblages in the US and UK
A diversity of cross-sectoral, multi-scalar networks are emerging to connect place-based food governance initiatives, such as food policy councils and partnerships, aimed to foster sustainable food security. Yet little research has explored how local food policy groups (LFPGs) are (horizontally) connecting to share knowledge and resources, or interacting (vertically) with other scales of food governance. To address this gap, we examine the trans-local dimension of food policy networks—and its potential to facilitate transformative food system reform. We build on alternative food network, social network, and assemblage thinking to develop an analytical framework that unveils the mobile, unstable, and relational processes and spatialities of LFPGs and the networks which connect them. Through an action-research project comprising a comparative analysis of the Food Policy Networks project in the US and Sustainable Food Cities Network in the UK, we explore how LFPGs connect across different scales and emerge as social-spatial assemblages of food system knowledge, practices, and infrastructure. The findings suggest that conceptualizing these entities as dynamic and place-contingent enables evaluations of their relations and effects to account for features that (could) make them more interconnected, resilient, and transformative, but may also limit their ability to address structurally entrenched food system challenges.