Pulling the Food System Up by the Roots: How do we build a crisis-proof food system in the Twin Cities?

Authors: Aubrey Hagen*, Macalester College
Topics: Food Systems, Qualitative Methods, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Food insecurity; Food access; Community wellbeing; Systemic racism; Food sovereignty; Social epidemiology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Prior to 2020, food insecurity was already a pervasive problem in the United States, with limited access to adequate, nutritious foods being linked to numerous poor physical and psychological outcomes. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and civil uprisings in response to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence, the Twin Cities communities are facing overlapping crises that threaten individual and community wellbeing and food security. How do we build a just, equitable, and “crisis-proof” food system? Drawing from theoretical frameworks in social epidemiology and radical food geography, this paper assesses how the local food system and community food insecurity in the Twin Cities have been impacted by crises and the lessons presented by community responses to crises. Focus groups with community advocates and stakeholders in the Twin Cities are combined with PhotoVoice activities, a community participatory research method in which participants document their experiences with pictures and videos. Participants shared their knowledge on the interplay of socio-ecological and systemic factors that have contributed to both crisis and inequality in the food system, as well as their visions for transformative change in the local food system. Qualitative thematic analysis produced themes that link disparate impacts of crises and inequality in the food system to white supremacy, racial capitalism, state violence, and environmental apartheid. Participants co-created a vision for an equitable and sustainable food system that embodies an idea described as "the food circle", using local agriculture as a tool to build community, achieve transformative systemic change, and create a "Green" future.

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