Feminist Food Sovereignty and the Politics of Care: Reframing Healthist, Humanitarian and Developmentalist Logics for Food System Change in West Virginia

Authors: Bradley Wilson*, West Virginia University, Heidi Gum*, West Virginia University, Cynthia S Gorman, West Virginia University
Topics: Food Systems, Gender, Rural Geography
Keywords: Feminism, Food Sovereignty, Care, Appalachia
Session Type: Paper
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Over the past three years the Food Justice Lab at West Virginia University hosted a series of food access planning workshops across West Virginia. Mobilizing more than 300 participants the Nourishing Networks workshop training program was designed to build grassroots capacity for food system change. Eighty-percent of workshop participants were women and dialogues recorded at these events revealed how women are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and disproportionately labor to repair a broken food system. Women are not only growing food, feeding their families, selling it at the grocery stores, serving it in restaurants and schools, and distributing it in food pantries, they are organizing for policy change in their own communities and working to combat systemic problems at the root of hunger and malnutrition. Women in West Virginia do an abundance of community food care work; and, as we have observed, this work is increasingly politicized. Yet absent in these dialogues at the grassroots level was a clear articulation of a feminist politics of food or a discourse of food sovereignty. In this paper we explore three hegemonic food frames that structured/limited how workshop participants talked about and strategized around food: humanitarianism, healthism, and developmentalism. We explore how each frame limits a discussion of sovereignty and determines expectations of women’s bodies, labors, and societal responsibilities. We conclude by considering how a discourse of feminist food sovereignty may offer a critical lens for revising our workshop pedagogy and opening new conversations as we advance future iterations of movement building

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