The dilemma of scaling up local food initiatives: Is social infrastructure the essential ingredient?


  • Sean Connelly University of Otago
  • Mary Beckie University of Alberta



local food initiatives, scale, alternative food systems, sustainability


The purpose of this paper is to reflect on and compare two responses to the challenge of scaling up local food initiatives.  Comparative case studies of the Good Food Box in the City of Edmonton and the Rimbey farmers’ market are used to examine the different strategies used to scale up their impacts as a means of providing a meaningful alternative to the status quo.  Our findings suggest that investments in social infrastructure are crucial for maintaining the values and integrity of local food initiatives and also to highlight the challenges of doing so while in competition with the mainstream food system.  Our research identifies how social infrastructure investments for local food initiatives can support radical and strategic incremental changes by managing the risk associated with transformative local food activities and provides opportunities for a reflexive approach to scale by identifying the levers and catalysts for broader change to ensure that investments in food system infrastructure are not made merely for the sake of scaling-up.    Social infrastructure is identified as critical for building support for, and attention to, opportunities to scale out and develop connections, networks and partnerships for change beyond food.

Author Biographies

Sean Connelly, University of Otago


Department of Geography

Mary Beckie, University of Alberta

Associate Professor

Faculty of Extension




How to Cite

Connelly, S., & Beckie, M. (2016). The dilemma of scaling up local food initiatives: Is social infrastructure the essential ingredient?. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 3(2), 49–69.