My research explores grassroots efforts to address inequalities in the food system, especially within urban America. I employ a political economic framework and qualitative participatory methods to critically examine the gap between what we know to be the need for food system reform with the extant focus on individual change.I currently have five intersecting lines of research:
Urban Food Production
My dissertation, “Cultivating the City: Urban Agriculture and Agrarian Questions in Brooklyn, New York” investigated urban agriculture as part of the emerging efforts to address disparities in food access and the costly human and environmental health impacts of the food system. My findings indicate a problematic gap exists between the intended goals of (Brooklyn’s) urban agriculture movement and the explicit political work necessary to realize food justice. I continue to conduct research on urban food production in Brooklyn and Syracuse, NY.
Mobile markets are broadly described as farm stands on wheels, bringing fresh fruits, vegetables and other food staples into neighborhoods, especially those lacking traditional, full service grocery stores, or where a significant proportion of the population lacks transportation to grocery stores (i.e.,“food deserts”). Along with a group of colleagues I recently completed a case study that critically examines mobile markets in Syracuse, NY. Our findings suggest that although Syracuse’s mobile markets play a positive role in alleviating geographic, economic and social barriers to fresh food access experienced by elderly, immobile and low income residents living in Syracuse’s urban neighborhoods, their impacts are dampened by both operational constraints and larger political and economic forces. We are now beginning a national survey of mobile markets with the goal of generating baseline descriptive data of the some 50 mobile markets operating throughout the United States.
Youth and Food Justice
In the summer of 2014 I began a project with the Center for Community Alternatives that engaged youth in a photovoice project to document the impacts of a food system intervention. Photovoice is a method whereby community members use cameras to identify and discuss issues of concern. This project seeks to understand how young people in a low-income neighborhood identify food system problems. Preliminary findings indicate that although interested in questions of food justice, youth identify more immediate problems encountered in their everyday lives, suggesting that food activists might do more to consider the intersectionality of inequalities in their effort to advance food justice.
Food System Planning
With a colleague at SUNY ESF Matt Potteiger, we are working on a food system planning project for Central New York. FoodPlanCNY, a project funded by the Onondaga Agricultural Council, is a project is to develop a framework for coordinating the food and agricultural system in CNY to address critical food system issues including public health, economic opportunities, and environmental quality.
Food Justice Activist-Scholarship
As an activist-scholar.