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A new institutionalist analysis of local level food policy in England between 2012 and 2014

Halliday, Jessica Jo (2015). A new institutionalist analysis of local level food policy in England between 2012 and 2014. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This thesis explores the potential for food policy groups in England to render the food environment within their local areas more sustainable and resilient. The main question it addresses is how institutional norms, values and practices affect food policy groups’ capacity to pursue their aims.

The research is informed by earlier literature identifying factors that shape the governance context within which a food policy group operates. It finds that institutions affecting food policy groups reside in four locations: within groups, between groups and their local authorities; within the local context; and within the multilevel governance context.

The study design is five case studies: the London Food Programme; the Islington Food Strategy; the Bristol Food Policy Council; Manchester Food Futures; and the County Durham Sustainable Local Food Strategy. These were selected to have diversity in: local government structure; location of the group vis-à-vis local government; and progress towards a food strategy. Data collection was through document analysis, direct observation, and semi-structured interviews.

The analysis shows the importance of food policy groups purposively determining and articulating institutions for efficiency and to foster actor agency to overcome constraints. Groups try to align their institutions with organisations they seek to influence in order to boost legitimacy and influence policy efficiently. Despite the dynamism of food policy groups and the difference they make in the lived experience of local areas, at present they are not prompting major change in the over-all food system configuration.

This research applies new institutionalism to the study of local level food policy for the first time, enabling insights into how institutional factors affect capacity. It contributes new perspectives to the new institutionalist literature on agency and institutional change.

The research is the first coherent exploration of the capacity of English food policy groups. It provides an evidence base to guide local food policy groups to be cognisant of contextual factors as they adopt structures and practices to maximise their impact.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
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