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Food Governance

Responsibility for decision-making about the food system is shared between many different public, private and civil society organisations. The result is that governance structures for food lag behind what we know about contemporary food-related challenges: that they are multiple and can impact on one another.


The way decision-making is currently organised tends to treat individual problems and parts of the system in isolation. This creates challenges for a more integrated and coherent approach to food policy. The challenges are similar whether talking about global, national or local level policy. 

The below brief uses a case study of global-level public sector decision-makers on food to illustrate these challenges.

The Governance Challenge  »

The case study details the different - primarily United Nations - bodies that are involved in global level food governance (it was written before the proposal for a UN Food Systems Summit, which took place in Summer 2021, and aimed to 'awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food'). 


Source: Parsons and Hawkes 2019

Governance arrangements at national policy level are the focus of my Who Makes Food Policy? mapping research.

One of the findings of the Who makes Food Policy? project was that - broadly speaking - inside government stakeholders perceive policy to be well connected, or 'joined up', whereas those outside government believe the opposite. I explored this in a paper analysing the food policy response to Covid-19 in England, and what it could tell us about food policy coordination:

England's Food Policy Coordination and the Covid-19 Response »

(Let me know if you have problems accessing). 

The paper proposes the distinction between routine coordination of policy activities, of which there is much, and strategic coordination, which we argue in the paper is lacking - which led, for example, to a failure to prioritise strategic social goals around healthy diets in the Covid policy response. This may help explain the different perspectives on whether policy is joined up or not. 


I also co-authored a paper on the impact of national 'policy styles' on food policy:

Candel, J., Parsons, K., Barling, D. and Loudiyi, S., 2020. The relationship between Europeanisation and policy styles: a study of agricultural and public health policymaking in three EU Member States. Journal of European Public Policy, pp.1-22.

(Again, let me know if you have problems accessing). 


I have also looked at governance arrangements at the local/city level; for example, the influence of wider governance structures - or 'institutions' - on London’s food policy. The paper below looks at how food policy in the UK capital is organised, what actions have been taken to try to improve the city's food system, and what it tells us about the way governance structures enable and constrain policy opportunities. 

London's Food Policy: Leveraging the policy sub-system, programme and plan  »

(Again, let me know if you have problems accessing). 


There are many different tools which can be used to connect food policy activities across government, and across government and non-government actors. This typology lays out some of the ways which are, have been, or could be, used to connect food policy. 










You can read more about these different tools in this report:

12 Tools for Connecting Food Policy »

And there is a short briefing version too:

Policy Brief: Tools for Connecting Food Policy »

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