Donald B, Blay-Palmer A, 2006, "The urban creative-food economy: producing food for the urban elite or social inclusion opportunity?" Environment and Planning A 38(10) 1901 – 1920
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The urban creative-food economy: producing food for the urban elite or social inclusion opportunity?
Betsy Donald, Alison Blay-Palmer
Received 3 August 2004; in revised form 18 January 2005
Abstract. The food industry has always been a major generator of economic activity in the Greater Toronto Area. However, recently the innovative and creative elements of the industry have changed. Since the mid-1990s, the fastest growing segment within the industry has been small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The specialty, ethnic, and organic SMEs (hereinafter referred to as the ‘creative-food’ industry) appear to be particularly innovative as they respond to consumer demand for local, fresh, ethnic, and fusion cuisine. On the basis of sixty-five interviews with food producers, processors, restaurateurs, food media, non-government organizations, government, and private sector agencies, it is suggested that this creative-food sector is thriving despite existing public policies that bias toward large-scale, industrialized agri-food firms in the region. As such, a disconnect currently exists between, on the one hand, the traditional agrifood paradigm that the government regulatory environment is promoting and, on the other hand, the locally consumer-driven food cluster that is emerging. Public policies of multiculturalism and education have done more to facilitate the unprecedented growth of this creative subcomponent of the food sector than have explicit public food-policy initiatives. However, there is still room for policy initiatives that advance the development of this dynamic sector, especially in the area of supportive infrastructure, access to health-based ethnically appropriate food, food education, and fair labour standards. Contrary to a widely held view, the creative-food industry is not just about promoting exclusive foods for the pleasure of urban elite. Rather, it offers an opportunity for a more socially inclusive and sustainable urban development model. The findings also have implications for multilevel governance in cluster formation and policy, future research on food, as well as for theories on innovation, urban creativity, and governance.
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