Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Human Geography


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Alison Blay-Palmer

Advisor Role

PhD Supervisor


This dissertation explores three efforts to develop sustainable local food systems at public universities in Canada and the UK. One is a partnership between the Canadian non-profit, Local Food Plus (LFP), and the University of Toronto (U of T). The other two are partnerships between the UK non-profit, the Soil Association (SA), and two British universities – Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and the University of the Arts London (UAL). In all three cases studies, a formal certification program to support the transition to more sustainable local food systems was a central feature. The author of this dissertation was the founder and president of Local Food Plus for almost a decade, and brings a perspective informed by both theory and practice.

The theoretical framework is a prominent tool of Sustainability Transition Theory, known as the multi-level perspective (MLP). The MLP is a model for conceptualizing the process of sustainability transitions, using the notions of niche, regime and landscape. By applying the MLP to sustainability transition in the food system, this dissertation suggests a number of ways in which the MLP can be strengthened, modified and refined. The dissertation also makes an empirical contribution to documenting and understanding sustainability transition in institutional food practices through analysis of 67 detailed semi-structured interviews conducted with food sector practitioners. These interviews focus on the operationalization of sustainability transitions. The dissertation argues that sustainability transition in foodservice is inherently disruptive to the existing regime, and requires on-going mobilization. As well, the research indicates that human agency is essential. This dissertation argues that operationalization deserves to be both problematized and theorized.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season