On the Front Lines in Food Policy

Assessing the Role of Neighbourhoods for Food Systems Transformation in the Montreal Food Polity


  • Anna-Liisa Aunio Dawson College
  • Laurette Dube McGill University




Food insecurity; design-based implementation research, food system transformation, complex adaptive systems


This paper reports a multi-year design-based implementation research (DBIR) that examines practical issues, challenges, and innovations faced by the Montreal food polity in transforming food systems for alleviating insecurity in vulnerable populations. Community organizations in three geographically distinct neighbourhoods were engaged in three distinct city-level collaborative engagement initiatives (coalition of neighbourhood roundtables; place-based philanthropy initiative-CIP; food system policy council-C-SAM). The later city-level initiatives stemmed from different historical and institutional contexts and afforded different types and amounts of capabilities in support of community organizations. Our results underscore the rich diversity not only in how local communities organize themselves over time but also how they welcome or not scaling-up or capacity building initiatives like CIP and C-SAM.  As part of the same complex and dynamic adaptive system observed at any stage of its evolution, individual organizations and collaborative platforms observed in this research were all having their respective historical trajectories and future aspirations in terms of composition, capabilities, goals, achievement, and challenges. Contributions to food systems research are three-fold: Isomorphism, Discursive Frame, and Decoupling between Norms and Action. Our research demonstrates that neighborhoods, like nation-states, exhibit different pathways to adoption, adaptation, and decoupling action from norms when cities become part of an international regime. The outcome of cities signing on to new international agreements are similarly symbolic in nature. Yet organizations and neighborhoods respond to these by adopting the discursive agendas of these new norms while, at the same time, exhibiting different pathways in policy and planning depending on their neighborhood histories, structure, and capacity. We close with a discussion of different path dependencies that vary by location. 




How to Cite

Aunio, A.-L., & Dube, L. (2021). On the Front Lines in Food Policy: Assessing the Role of Neighbourhoods for Food Systems Transformation in the Montreal Food Polity. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v8i2.493