Constituting community through food charters: A rhetorical-genre analysis

  • Philippa Spoel Laurentian University
  • Colleen Derkatch Ryerson University
Keywords: community, food charters, food policy, public health discourse, neoliberal discourse


Communities across Canada are increasingly developing food charters, with at least 22 regional charters published in Ontario alone. As a rhetorical genre, food charters are persuasive actions that articulate not only the kind of food system to which a community aspires, but also the kind of community that it aspires to be. We argue that Ontario’s food charters play an important role in constituting a sense of community identity and values through the rhetorical action of the genre itself. We analyze how this is accomplished through two rhetorical features, the naming of community and the listing of community prioritiesshowing how these features simultaneously obscure and reveal ideological tensions and logical incongruities within each community’s vision for its food system. Our analysis illustrates how the genre of the food charter both responds to and shapes the diverse, possibly conflicting values that inform food policy and food security initiatives in Ontario, and it offers insight into how the genre itself may inadvertently constrain the action it is intended to perform. 


Original Research Article