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The bustle of a farmer‟s market, the bright lights of a grocery store, the serenity of a farm and the beauty

of a community coming together to share food and a meal were all locations where I conducted my participant observation. I researched the barriers, real or imagined which would cause someone to not participate in a local food production site. Food insecurity abounds in Washington; for example, one in four children lives in food insecure households. In a state rich in agriculture, why do we have people going hungry? Food security and insecurity are conceptually defined as the following:  Food security is defined as “Access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum: (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g., without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).”  Food insecurity is defined as the “Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

Since the beginning of the recession, the number of Washington state families struggling with hunger has almost doubled. In 2007, approximately 88,000 households across the state experienced hunger. During the past three years, this number rose to more than 160,000 or 6.1 percent of total households. Washington has the 11th highest rate of hunger in the nation and is 18th in food insecurity.

Hunger can affect anyone.  Almost half of the individuals using a food bank, meal program or shelter in Western Washington have some form of post-secondary education. Only 9% are actually homeless.

My research looked at several local food spaces and I personally define a food space as anywhere food is grown, produced, sold, made or eaten. Food spaces surround us every day–the family kitchen, grocery store, farms, farmers‟ markets, food banks, activist food locations and so many more. In this project, I specifically wanted to look at both food spaces I frequent and some I do not; I wanted to gain an understanding of how these spaces function, and the impact they have on their surroundings, and the people who frequent them. Pierre Bourdieu, French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher, created a diagram explaining the connections and value placed on cultural and economic capital. I find his original diagram confusing, however, the journal Gastronomica has updated the diagram as you see here. Bourdieu claims the classification of taste and how the taste of more favored foods (I.e. those richer in texture, substance and taste) are placed at a higher value than those being chosen for dual roles of satiability and economical prices.

For example, using so-called ancient grains such as amaranth versus brown rice would be an example of placing a higher value on a product which has a greater cultural capital versus the economical choice and filling properties of brown rice.

Through my experiences I have found the definitions and ways people interact with and describe the food spaces in their lives to be very fluid. People choose where to shop and buy their food based on income, personal preferences, health risks, supporting local economy, “voting with your food dollar or fork” and many other reasons. Every bite you place in your mouth, every item of food you purchase at a market of any kind is a political choice. Corporations are feeding us their politics and it is time for a change; this is where the movements happening locally, nationally and culturally are vital in creating and impacting change.

The research I have completed to date has been to create conversations within these food spaces addressing the issues of food access and discover ways to participate in food justice and activism in the Carnation valley and surrounding areas. Through my research I have engaged with farmers, grocers, farmers market vendors, parents, community leaders and kids to gain a better understanding of these spaces and the people interacting with them. I created a blog for people to engage in conversation and a space for voices to be heard and dialogue together. My greatest hope in creating this blog has been to create a conversation – a place for people to find and share information about farmers markets, local grocery stores, community supported agriculture (CSA‟s) and food and nature education programs; to share their passion for food, local eateries and discover where our food comes from; to read and watch and then take this knowledge and teach others. David Harvey, leading social theorist, asks, „So who and where are the agents of social change?‟ His answer is, „everyone, everywhere‟. Each of us can create change in the spaces we interact with on a daily basis and the people we come in contact with for however brief a moment. This is my greatest hope with the work I have done – someone will be inspired to become more aware of the food system in their community, the food choices they make and how far reaching the ripple effects are of the choices they make; perhaps to become involved in the food movement and activism in their area.

At this time, I would like to show a brief video which will show the facts I have presented and detail the work of Food Lifeline, a local chapter of Feeding America, an organization working to alleviate hunger in Washington. Show YouTube video

Audience Activity As you have listened to this presentation and watched the video I hope you have taken in the beauty of the table filled with the bounty of several local farms. If you would please look under your chair you will find a card of a certain color. These cards represent an approximate number from this size audience who will experience varying levels of hunger. Please hold up your card as I read about each of these.  If you have a green card you are able to purchase food wherever and whenever you choose. There is no risk of you going hungry. (This should be about ¼ of the audience.)  If you have a yellow card, you may be able to visit the farmers market occasionally, but very rarely and you will most likely shop at chain grocery stores, grocery outlets and may at times be dependent on food support. There will be times where you have to choose between eating and paying the bills. (This should be about ¼ of the audience.)  If you have a red card, you are dependent on food stamps, food banks or some type of meal program. You are unsure of where your next meal will come from and often you or your family will go hungry. (This should be about ½ of the audience.)

Acknowledgements In closing I would like to thank those who have participated in my research, provided spaces for me to ask these questions and who are working diligently to create food change in this beautiful area we live in.  At Oxbow Farm – Sarah & Luke, you have been nothing but generous with your time, resources, passion and kindness. Thank you for opening your land and your hearts to me!  Wilderness Awareness School – you have created my soul food and I cannot wait to begin working with all of you and this amazing community of people.  My advisors – Julie Shayne, my Capstone advisor, I have greatly enjoyed our conversations and so appreciate your passion for your work and the work I am doing as well. Leslie Ashbaugh, my Portfolio Advisor, for being the kind, gentle voice throughout this journey and offering such beautiful advice.  My friends – you have listened to me complain, watched me stretch and grow and continually driven me to stick with this journey and cross the finish line.  My research participants – To the amazing parents who answered my questions and shared your time and passion for your little ones with me.

 My family – You have held me when I cried, listened to me rage my frustrations, watched me grow and watered this passion within me with your love, support and understanding. I wouldn‟t be here today without your example.  Nick – you are my soul mate and I could not have asked for a better person to walk through this journey with. I love you to the end of time.

Thank you for your time and attention! Now I would like to ask you to please turn your attention to Leslie who will be speaking about her project entitled, Beyond the Aesthetic: An Exploration of Identity and Habitus in the Arts through Oral History.