Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr. Jason A. Gilliland


Food systems are complex, interconnected webs which connect everything from small local businesses and farmers to large multinational corporations all over the world. The recent spike in food prices as the value of the Canadian dollar declines has highlighted how much of our food is grown in California and other international regions. Where do small food businesses source their food from and how do they make those decisions? To examine this, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 business owners in the Old East Village Food District, in London, Canada. Interview data were analyzed two ways: (1) foodshed analysis of business supply chains, and (2) qualitative content analysis to identify opportunities and challenges for growing small businesses and sourcing local food. Foodshed analysis revealed how businesses source food from local farmers, but the majority of food comes through distributors at the Ontario Food Terminal. Findings identified the interconnectedness of food systems; regions underserved by local distribution networks; and the value of in-depth interviews for better understanding the food system. Content analysis highlighted the role of farmers’ markets and locally-oriented business clusters in fostering local economic development. The farmers’ market was a low risk, affordable place for businesses to access food production space and its integration with the food district was vital for growing businesses. Policies supporting local economic development must address logistical challenges preventing small businesses from sourcing local food, and assist small businesses with accessing capital.