Entre la milpa y el papelito: Rural students researching food systems and policy in Oaxaca, Mexico

Authors: Fiona Gladstone*, University of Arizona - School of Geography and Development
Topics: Food Systems, Field Methods, Development
Keywords: youth, rural change, Mexico, community-engaged research, food systems, food policy
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Globalization, environmental change, and development policy have largely undermined food and nutrition security in rural Mexico over the past several decades. Reorienting away from national food sufficiency and toward integration in global markets in the latter half of the 20th century, the government pushed the small farm sector into off-farm income as well as cash transfers conditioned on children’s full-time school attendance from 1998-2018. Rural families hoped that schooling would provide a ticket out of rural poverty. Meanwhile, a poorly regulated corporate food industry and nutrition-related health problems are on the rise. This study asks, what potential do rural educational institutions provide for scholar-activists seeking to engage youth from farming backgrounds in research-based learning and activism around food security and sovereignty? In this multi-year dissertation study based on youth participant action research (YPAR), the PI led 28 rural students from two educational institutions in independent and collective research on food systems and health in their communities. The YPAR was conducted to complement the PI’s independent research on contemporary government food assistance policy (2016-2018). Contrasts in the formation of the two different research partnerships, in contact hours and modalities, school type, student developmental stage, and socio-geographical differences in the communities influenced the learning and research outcomes. Discussion of these contrasts and their significance offers broader insights and lessons to activist scholars in agri-food research on how partnerships with educational institutions can offer a means for pedagogical interventions with rural youth towards collective knowledge, interpretation, and action on contemporary food system challenges.

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