Realizing urban food policy : a discursive institutionalist analysis of Ede municipality

Sibbing, Lara V.; Candel, Jeroen J.L.


To overcome pressing food system challenges, academics and civil society actors have called for the development of integrated food policies. Municipalities have increasingly picked up on these calls by developing municipal food strategies. It remains unclear, however, whether and how these commitments have resulted in a genuine institutionalization of food governance across local administrations. We address this gap through an in-depth study of how food governance ideas were institutionalized in the Dutch municipality of Ede, which is considered a frontrunner in municipal food policy. Drawing on discursive institutionalism, we explore how actors, ideas and discourses mutually shaped the institutionalization process. Our analysis shows that food governance ideas were institutionalized following a discursive-institutional spiral of three stages. First, an abstract food profile discourse emerged, which was institutionalized exclusively amongst a small group of policy makers. In the second stage, the discourse shifted to a more elaborate integrated food policy discourse, which was institutionalized across various departments. Finally, a food system discourse emerged, which was institutionalized across an even broader range of policy departments. Our study suggests that integrated food policy can be institutionalized within a relatively short time span. A food strategy, budget and organizational innovations seem key in this process, although they can also be constraining. At the same time, we conclude that retaining a food policy institutionalized remains challenging, as sudden ideational change may cause rapid deinstitutionalization.