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Social economy of quality food

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Purpose ‐ This paper aims to examine the implications of the efforts to promote a quality-oriented economy that incorporates a vision of environmental sustainability and equitable social development. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The analysis builds on a case study of food procurement in Brazil, which intended to improve the quality of food used in public schools. The case study follows ways that the promotion of quality food has localised the procurement operation, connecting smallholders to citizen-consumers. Findings ‐ The efforts to promote quality food procurement worked to shape reflexive governance in a decentralised political environment and create an institutional device based on cooperative civic participation and state engagement. However, this process highlighted socioeconomic inequality within the country due to uneven local capacities to connect good-quality services to the citizens' everyday places. The study identifies the following paths to tackle this unevenness: improvement of place-based infrastructure; promotion of trans-local cooperation; and building on the existing informal institutional arrangements. Originality/value ‐ The focus on quality and sustainability in general has been blind to the inequality in local capacities to define and promote the quality-oriented economy in the first place. Recognising inequality through a case study, the paper outlines specific ways for the author to link quality to trans-local equality.
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Keywords: Brazil; Food procurement; Governance; Inequality; Local capacity; Quality

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 4, 2014

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