Towards a sustainable agri-food ecosystem: the case study of South Korean public food procurement

Public food procurement (PFP) plays an important role in establishing such agri-food systems. Our study explores local food system stakeholders’ response to PFP interventions by addressing the question of how PFP transforms agri-food systems and how this new agri-food ecosystem is governed. Design/methodology/approach: This article presents and discusses a unique case study of Jeonbuk, a rural province in South Korea, which successfully transformed its agri-food system into an ecosystem through its sustainability-oriented innovations (SOI) among born ecopreneur farmers. This case not only offers insights into a novel way to create value chains through legislative, executive, and judicial governance but also extends the body of knowledge on agri-food systems by introducing the concept of an agri-food ecosystem. Findings and Originality: Our findings indicate the importance of ecosystem governance and knowledge exchange among internal and external ecosystem stakeholders. In particular, PFP institutions play a crucial role in facilitating the operation of public meal centers and cooperation among actors. The study further extends the agricultural cooperatives research and contributes to a better understanding of the role of a municipality and an agri-food intermediary in the governance process involving producers and kitchens. Practical Implications: Taking an ecosystem lens to agri-food systems may offer them a wider perspective and better understanding of the governance structures necessary to successfully execute public interventions. Lastly, the Korean case differs from other developing countries, but its role model qualities could help to implement successful school meal programs elsewhere.

Keywords: Public food procurement, public meal center, school meal, agri-food ecosystem, ecosystemgovernance, agricultural cooperatives

Authors: Seungha Baek, Agniezka Radziwon

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