Foraging for Fish: Mapping urban fishery resources to help combat food insecurity among homeless populations in Los Angeles County

Authors: Jason Post*, Tohono O'odham Community College
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Urban Geography, Food Systems
Keywords: Food insecurity, homeless, Los Angeles, fish, urban fishing
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 18
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Exuberant housing costs have led to a crisis in Los Angeles County, with over 66,400 residents experiencing homelessness (Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority). This figure has been steadily rising at a rate of roughly 12% annually. Food insecurity is a major issue facing the Los Angeles County homeless population, and the population in general with over 2 million residents experiencing food insecurity (LA Food Bank).

Urban waterways such as the Los Angeles River, have a long history of being lived spaces for homeless, migrant, and immigrant populations. These groups have consumed local freshwater fish throughout the 20th century, a trend which continues to this day. Trends in literature point to urban fisheries as an important resource to supplement food supplies in low-income communities. The Fallen Fruit project set out to map fruit overhanging public sidewalks in Los Angeles. Similarly, this project focused on the development of a publicly accessible map resource showing the freshwater bodies where edible fishery resources can be successfully caught.

A site suitability analysis combined fish occurrence/population data with park accessibility data and transportation data to identify the best urban waters for homeless residents to successfully find and catch fish. Fish occurrence and population data has been compiled from field sampling, and citizen science data.

This study also critiques current ecosystem restoration efforts aimed at the prioritization of inedible native species over edible exotic species. These restoration efforts neglect human need and use of novel aquatic ecologies. They favor privileged recreational experiences over accessible food sources.

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