Mapping carceral food systems as sites of contestation and possibilities

Authors: Amanda Wilson*,
Topics: Food Systems, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: food justice, carceral system, food system, food movement, prisonner justice
Session Type: Paper
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Several scholars have noted a growing interest in connections between food and prisons (Smoyer 2019, Timler et al 2019, Godderis 2006 Sbicca 2016). Much of this literature adopts one of two frames: food as a form of punishment (for instance concerns over the quality and quantity of prison food) or food as healing (for instance, the therapeutic value of prison gardens, agriculture programs as employment training). However, food is also a a site of contestation and possibility within the carceral system; the culmination of a complex assemblage of relationships, actors and activities that are implicated in the provisioning of food within prisons. This paper has two primary aims: one, to being the process of mapping the carceral food system in Canada, with a focus on Ontario; and two, to interrogate the various ways in which food systems and prisons are jointly-implicated in contemporary campaigns for food justice and prisoner justice. Is food justice possible under a carceral system? If so, what are the sites of contestation and possibility within the Canadian prison system? Recent campaigns over the fate of prison farms in Canada (2016-2019), as well as concern and protest over the 2016 changes to the food distribution model (centralized “cook-chilled” food along with a standardized national menu) provide two such possible sites through which to explore the complex interconnections between food justice and prisoner justice.

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