'We need to survive': integrating social enterprises within community food initiatives

Andrea Tonner, Juliette Wilson, Katy Gordon, Eleanor Shaw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In this chapter we examine the impacts of social enterprise on individual and community health and well-being. We focus on community food initiatives and explore how longstanding non-profit models in the community food sector are integrating profit bearing social enterprise within their structures. We consider the impact of these changes on the social determinants of health and the influence of structure on health outcomes. This study uses an interpretive qualitative approach working with two community food social enterprises. Our findings demonstrate that community food initiatives have become more thoughtful and wide ranging in the types of interventions which they offer. They have transformed themselves into complex organisations encompassing an ever-growing range of initiatives. Despite the current climate, where there is considerable support for social enterprise, findings show a reluctance among these initiatives to be aligned to the social enterprise vision. Their strongly charitable origins means that their skills and networks are more closely aligned to charitable models. Findings show support for impact at the individual, social and community layers of the social determinants of health model; however, there is less evidence of impact beyond this into living conditions or socioeconomic, cultural and environmental conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhat is Food? Researching a Topic with Many Meanings
EditorsUlla Gustafsson, Rebecca O'Connell, Alizon Draper, Andrea Tonner
Place of PublicationOxon
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019


  • social enterprises
  • community food initiatives
  • food


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