Policy makers rarely feature in research into alternative and local food systems (ALFS), yet are often regarded as central actors in supporting such local food systems, sometimes as part of wider rural development strategies. Furthermore, what ‘local’ actually means has long been debated in the alternative food networks literature, with the consensus that the term is contested and defies definition. This paper explores discursive constructions of ‘local’ food, drawing on in-depth interviews with farmers, local food businesses, consumers and policy makers in East Yorkshire. The paper argues that the concept of local food is contextualised and refracted through the people and places in which food is produced and consumed. It illustrates the complexities involved in understanding, and making sense of, local food networks and their relationship with conventional food systems.