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A scoping review of the conceptualizations of food justice

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 16:07 authored by Sandra MurraySandra Murray, Frederick GaleFrederick Gale, David AdamsDavid Adams, Lisa DaltonLisa Dalton

Objective: The emerging concept of 'food justice' has been described as a movement and a set of principles that align with the goals of social justice, which demands recognition of human rights, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and is participatory and community specific. Considering its widespread use and variable definitions, this study establishes the scope of research by exploring diverse conceptualizations of food justice.

Design: A scoping review of peer-reviewed literature was conducted using the term "food justice". This study used a five-step scoping review protocol. The databases included Scopus, Web of Science and Medline (OVID). Data were extracted on country of origin, research discipline, study type and conceptualizations of food justice. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to identify the themes.

Results: The search identified 546 abstracts of which 90 were peer-reviewed studies. Thematic analysis revealed five themes of food justice across 90 studies: 1) social equity, 2) food security 3) food systems transformation, 4) community participation and agency, and 5) environmental sustainability.

Conclusions: Current conceptualizations of food justice are evolving. Together these themes embrace a more holistic and structural view of the food system. They emphasize healthy, sustainable, and equitable food as a human right and acknowledge the need to address structural barriers to that right. Despite its 20-year history the parameters of food justice are still not well defined, making it difficult for communities to mobilize for transformative change. Community participation and agency in food justice decision-making are critical to create a healthy, sustainable, and more just food system.


Publication title

Public Health Nutrition






School of Health Sciences


C A B I Publishing

Place of publication

C/O Publishing Division, Wallingford, England, Oxon, Ox10 8De

Rights statement

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Nutrition Society. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Determinants of health; Nutrition

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