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Who’s Invited to the Table?

: An Exploration of Food Access, Food Spaces and Food Justice

Rachel Tomczek

A Capstone Paper Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts in Cultural Studies

University of Washington Bothell 2013

Committee: Julie Shayne, Capstone Advisor Leslie Ashbaugh, Portfolio Advisor

Program Authorized to Offer Degree: Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

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Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the invaluable help of Jackie Belanger, Master of Arts in Cultural Studies librarian. She has helped provide new ideas and thoughts on my project and discovered several key literature sources which speak to the discourses within agriculture and the food system which were missing from my project. Her searching also helped in the discovery of Cultural Studies theorists I could tie my work to. I would also like to thank Julie Shayne for encouraging me to type the words ‘food space’ into a Google query which led to the discovery of a diagram in Gastronomica entitled “Bourdieu’s Food Space” and a book written by Pierre Bourdieu entitled Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979). “You’re welcome…”

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Introduction/Research questions It is 10 a.m. on a warm, spring day and you can smell coffee, produce, soil, bread, and the city wafting through the air as customers fill their bags with premium farmers’ market purchases. In another part of the city a group gathers around a small street band playing catchy tunes while vendors fill tables with fresh local produce and bread. People line up to fill their arms, boxes and bags with food and their hearts with hope. As you enter the market, the lights are warm and bright overhead; the smell of bread, meats and cheese fill the air; appealing bars of gourmet salads, olives, pickles, cheese, specialty items, soup and pre-made entrees beckon; and helpful people are there to answer questions and provide cooking tips. In the fields across the valley the sun breaks through the dense fog and illuminates dew-covered pumpkins and winter squash as birds call out and deer wander through the grass. As I have wandered the aisles, walked the fields, perused the stands and been warmly welcomed by a food activist group I have begun to ask myself the questions—who is allowed “to market”?; what do the faces look like occupying these spaces?; are people there because of a political move to “vote with their food dollar” or “vote with their fork”, or out of a preference choice for organic/local items, or perhaps as an alternative to the charity of a food bank? This paper will focus on the research I conducted in several food spaces and critically engage with cultural studies theories of class and power as related to these spaces. I will address the following questions:  In what ways are people excluded from participating in spaces of food production?  What barriers, real or imagined, (I.e. race, class, marketing materials, etc.) exist that would cause someone to not participate in a local food production site? This paper begins with a project overview followed by definitions of key terms I use throughout. Next I discuss food spaces and the role they play in my work. From there I will discuss the discourses and barriers I looked at throughout my research; specifically, discourses regarding social class, price, and access. I then discuss neoliberalism and its ties to food insecurity, hunger, food justice and I close with a discussion of the limitations of my project and my goals for future activism. Project Overview In brief, this project asks, how do food and cultural studies relate to each other and how is the work I have completed important to the field of cultural studies? I believe food is a basic human right and everyone deserves to have access to healthy food. The issues of space, power and class are significantly layered within food spaces and create dynamics within these places which push people of lower socio-economic status and minority populations to the edges. The projects I have worked on over the past two years have helped me refine and focus my research project and find a medium which is more accessible to the audience with whom I want to engage. While the core classes within the Master of Arts in Cultural Studies (MACS) program have offered me the theory and direction needed to put into practice the work I hoped to complete, the electives and internships I participated in have been the most instrumental in the completion of my project. My portfolio essay describes the electives I took and how they influenced the journey of my work. The portfolio is accessible through
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The presentation of my research is multilayered and each piece fits into the next to create a whole picture of the work I have done. One part of the project is the blog I created at The blog is meant to open a conversation between activists, scholars, farmers, educators and the general public; a conversation regarding food, food spaces, activism, and much more. In it I revisit papers I have written throughout graduate school and critique original thoughts I presented; it offers informative posts on products and education tools for children related to food and farming, farmer’s markets in the Seattle area, local farms I have conducted internships at, and analyzes different food spaces with which I have engaged. While academic conversations are important to me, ultimately I am more concerned with public exchanges and real life barriers people experience surrounding food and hunger. Another piece of the picture is the portfolio I created, as a program requirement, entitled A Food Journey: From Apples to Zucchini, which can be found at The portfolio is a way to see more of the work I completed throughout the program and follow the progress of my journey as I learned more and delved deeper into Cultural Studies and the relation of my work to the field. Finally, this paper is meant to engage in conversation with these layers and further the discussion by asking: which barriers exist within these food spaces and why do they exist? By asking these questions I believe my work furthers the conversation of activists, farmers, grocers, parents and anyone involved in aspects of food production and distribution who may engage with this work and discover ways to continually break down said barriers. I am hopeful my work reaches those I am speaking about and engages them in the conversation as well. We cannot hope to make significant change without involving those we are attempting to reach. Definitions It is necessary here to clarify exactly what is meant by key terms I use in this paper. Food space(s) is used to refer to anywhere food is grown, produced, sold, made or eaten. While this term was used by Pierre Bourdieu (1979) in his book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, there is no official dictionary definition. Food spaces may also be lacking in food availability and these areas are referred to as food deserts. Food deserts are spaces with “limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominately lower income neighborhoods and communities” (USDA 2009, as quoted in Alkon & Agyeman, 2011, p. 89). Many communities surrounding or located within food deserts experience a higher instance of food insecurity. 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” ( Feeding America, 2012, retrieved from america/hunger-facts.aspx). This is in contrast to food security, which means “Access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life and 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)” (Feeding America, 2012, retrieved from america/hungerfacts.aspx). Sadly, hunger is a crisis sweeping the United States which has propelled activists to fight for food justice. Alkon & Agyeman (2011) define food justice as “communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat [food that is] fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals” (p. 5).
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Organizations, individuals, scholars and anyone advocating for food justice are a part of the food movement which is an activist driven effort created in opposition to industrial farming and large scale food production (Alkon & Agyeman, 2011, p. 1). Food Spaces What is a ‘food space’? When I first began this journey I felt I had created this term or heard it in one of the numerous documentaries I watched, or books I read. As noted, I understand 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. During my internet research I typed a search query into Google and a website popped up from the journal Gastronomica entitled “Bourdieu’s Food Space”. The article includes a diagram from a book written by Bourdieu entitled Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979).

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I will admit I was utterly shocked! Although published over three decades ago, the principles about which Bourdieu writes are applicable to current discussions and practices. Bourdieu explains how cultural and economic capital are contrasted against heavy and light foods versus healthy and rich; he also discusses the status of men and women and how gender is juxtaposed against economic and cultural capital as well as taste and the status and free time of women. While this diagram may need updating, which the authors of the webpage I stumbled upon have done (, it is noteworthy that over thirtythree years ago many of the ideas and principles that Bourdieu was discussing are still applicable today (Bourdieu, 1979, p. 186). When I look at the updated diagram I begin to see more clearly the principles Bourdieu was discussing and the value placed on the classification of cultural and economic capital. For example, buying in bulk is a money saving principle and would potentially be considered low economic capital; however, buying in bulk becomes high cultural capital when you cook the bulk beans from scratch and make your own chili. The opposite of this scenario would be high economic capital and low cultural capital. For example, buying “homemade” preserves from Whole Foods will cost more (high economic capital), but is not an investment in greater cultural capital as you did not make the preserves yourself. Similarly, while the techniques of charcuterie (preparing of meat products) were once considered ‘cheap-nourishing’, it has now become the exotic or ‘recherché’. However, the contrast of those with ‘supposed’ greater cultural capital and less economic capital against those

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presumed to have greater economic capital and less cultural capital speaks volumes. The contrast I am speaking to is between economic and cultural capital and how they relate to the food spaces people occupy and the foods they consume. In the introduction of Distinction, Bourdieu (1979) writes, “To the socially recognized hierarchy of the arts, and within each of them, of genres, schools or periods, corresponds a social hierarchy of the consumers. This predisposes tastes to function as markers of ‘class’” (p. 1, 2). I will revisit the discussion of class and taste later in this paper. I believe another way of looking at these spaces is from the perspective of a cultural geography lens as it adds further depth to the discussion. One difficult aspect of the analysis of space is the incredibly diverse terminology and multiplicity of definitions related to the concept of space (Massey, 1992, p. 4). A study of spaces is imperative as it is through space, “we experience and conceptualize the world” and “space is constituted through social relations and material social practices” (Massey, p. 5, 7). After reading and contemplating Massey’s ideas I have to ask, how does her analysis relate to food spaces? My interpretation of Massey’s (1992) assertion that space is ‘constituted through social relations and material social practices’ relates to food spaces through the choices made while shopping, where people choose to shop, and how these choices impact their relation to a space, and the subsequent ripple effect to one’s choices. Here the ripple effect occurs vis-à-vis sharing a meal and conversation about where the food for the meal was purchased and how the dishes were made. One space I believe you can see this social relationship and material practice playing out is within the growing industry of agritourism. Agritourism is the crossroads of tourism and agriculture: when the public visits working farms, ranches or wineries to buy products, enjoy entertainment, participate in activities, shop in a country store, eat a meal or make overnight stays. Agricultural tourism is a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment or education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner. Agritourism can include farm stand or shops, Upick, farm stays, tours, on-farm classes, fairs, festivals, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, winery weddings, orchard dinners, youth camps, barn dances, hunting or fishing, guest ranches, and more (retrieved from ons.pdf). Agritourism is a fast growing and essential area of tourism. It appeals to those tourists looking for a unique experience; the weekend traveler looking for an escape from the city; parents seeking alternative learning environments for their children, and the ever searching backpacker. Visiting a farm is peaceful, restorative, informative, fulfilling and can be lots of fun. To step away from the city and view the mountains in the distance surrounded by the sounds of animal noises; the smells of dirt, flowers, clean air, farm animals, plants growing, and just being in the moment, for some, is more powerful than words can describe. However, one must look at the agritourist space with a critical eye and ask the questions regarding access, power, and class. For example, who is allowed to tour? Is touring food spaces increasing awareness of the land and the disparity within the food system or furthering the barriers of access and class and who farms and/or maintains these spaces? These questions are deep and deserve greater attention and unpacking. I have completed this work on my blog site and portfolio where you can read about the work I completed surrounding agritourism using the site of Dog Mountain Farm in Carnation, Washington, for my participant observation.
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A local spot I visited to gain a greater understanding of agritourism and play the role of an agritourist was Dog Mountain Farm. Dog Mountain Farm fits into the discussion surrounding agritourism mainly with respect to access and cost. Located approximately 30 miles from Seattle, the drive may be a deterrent for some people wanting to visit; cost comes into play with the farm dinners hosted seasonally that run $75 to $100 per person for dinner and staying on the farm is $50 if you camp and $150 if you stay in the platform tent. For those who may not know about agritourism this may be a factor in who does and who does not have access to the farm. Perhaps, if one is unaware agritourism even exists as a tourist option, or s/he does not have access to the internet to find local agritourist sites, and/or does not have the money to pay for such a venture. These reasons can all play a part in accessibility to the space of agritourism. Social anthropologist, Paolo Favero (2007) states, “today we have a ‘ planetary consciousness’ (in Pratt, 1992: 9) and the very ‘capability to imagine regions and worlds’ has become in itself a ‘globalized phenomenon’”. Favero’s contention relates to agritourism and access because agritourism allows people to become agritourists on a local level, all the way up to a world level. For example, one may choose to participate in an agritour throughout Italy’s farmland and vineyards. It also relates through the “emerging middle class armed with the economic resources and cultura l capital” and how they are expanding the agritourist scene and feeds into who participates in it. Mobility and space are key issues which must be considered when interacting with agritourism (51-81). The discourses surrounding agritourism and food spaces portray a message that these spaces provide great inclusivity, while in all actuality they create barriers of exclusivity. For example, when one tours a farm you expect to feed the chickens, collect eggs, perhaps milk a goat, and eat fresh farm food. This space could be considered the front stage; the “inclusive” space where the farm is clean, happy, bright and enjoyable. In reality, there is a bucket of offal (feathers, beaks, entrails, etc.) sitting in the back where chickens were just processed for the farm fresh dinner being consumed. This space is the back stage; the “exclusive” space the tourist is not invited to see and most likely does not want to see. Social Class The class stratified space of a farm is apparent if one stops to critique the nature of agritourism and is visible within food spaces as well. The farm worker may never be seen, the office staff often is not visible beyond the walls of their offices, and the farmer is often the one at the forefront greeting those who visit the farm and providing the desired experience for the consumer. This is who the traveler expects to see when they visit the farm – the farmer – often a white, older male. Many do not want to see the field worker or butcher, the person covered in sweat, dirt and smelling of body odor or offal who is picking or processing the food they are eating and cleaning up the manure after the animals they are collecting eggs from. Personal preference would dissuade some from visiting a farm as a tourist site, while many other simply cannot afford such a vacation. As noted, Favero (2007) refers to an increase in economic resources and an emerging middle class and I envision these tourists as those who are able to visit a farm and tour the land in a more upscale manner, and even increasing their cultural capital in the process. This is a far different experience from those who work on, or manage the farm in order to entertain tourists; workers who may not have chosen to be on the farm out of a connection with the land, but rather as a means of survival.

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Another marker of social class is taste; whether it is taste in clothing, art, music or food choices, people are marked as having a certain modicum, or absence, of cultural capital as articulated through their tastes. Taste comes into play literally, and figuratively as one tours the land and fills the role of an agritourist. Literally through the consumption of the land, through purchasing farm products such as eggs, vegetables, fruits, and baked goods; and more figuratively through choosing agritourism as a vacation site. When one’s food choices are used to mark the class they supposedly belong to, social separation occurs. For example, if I see a family checking out at the grocery store and their cart is filled with processed foods, soda, and very few fresh fruits and vegetables I tend to assign them a category of lower socioeconomic status than myself; I assume they lack the knowledge about the needs of a whole, nutritious diet. This is a stereotype I see myself assigning to people in the spaces where we shop for our groceries. That is, socioeconomic class stratification as represented by the choices people make regarding what they place in their grocery cart, basket or reusable shopping bag. Taste, according to Bourdieu, is also complicated when we think about the tastes of “necessity” versus “liberty”: Statistical analysis does indeed show that oppositions similar in structure to those found in cultural practices also appear in eating habits. The antithesis between quantity and quality, substance and form, corresponds to the opposition – linked to different distances from necessity – between the taste of necessity, which favours the most ‘filling’ and most economical foods, and the taste of liberty – or luxury – which shifts the emphasis to the manner (of presenting, serving, eating, etc.) and tends to use stylized forms to deny function (1979, p. 6). 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. While my discussion of agritourism and tastes are meant to highlight the symbolism and ironies surrounding a niche form of tourism and elite eating practices, access to food, the cost of food, and hunger are real barriers within the food system and industry. The dichotomy of exclusivity and inclusivity is apparent within the food spaces we occupy and where we shop for our groceries. For example, Whole Foods caters to a certain elite clientele and one pays the elevated prices to shop there. On the other hand, Grocery Outlet caters to a more budget conscious clientele, and the prices are reflective of the clientele they are serving. The point here is not to rank the quality of the markets but rather note and critique the barriers surrounding these food spaces. Price & Access As we know, cost is a barrier to healthy, nutritious foods. Studies have shown that price has a potentially prohibitive impact on fruit and vegetable consumption for low-income families. One study showed in order to meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption a low-income family would have to devote “43% to 70% of their food budget to
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fruits and vegetables” (Cassady, Jetter, Culp, 2007, p. 1909). Dong and Lin (2009) ask the question, “would price reduction make a difference?” in their study of the po tential for creating a subsidy for low-income Americans to purchase more fruits and vegetables. They discovered the annual cost of such a subsidy would be about $310 million for fruits and $270 million for vegetables, and even with this subsidy most people would still not be able to meet the Federal Dietary Recommendations (i). Studies have shown “access to healthful foods is most limited among racial and ethnic minorities and low-income populations; these same populations experience the highest rates of obesity and food insecurity” (Freedman & Bell, 2009, p. 825). In a study conducted by Morland, Wing, Roux and Poole (2001), the researchers analyzed the distribution of food stores and services according to neighborhood wealth and racial segregation in Mississippi, North Carolina, Maryland, and Minnesota. Morland, et al (2001), found when large numbers of supermarkets and gas stations with convenience stores are located in wealthier neighborhoods, there are fewer places to purchase alcohol in these neighborhoods as compared to lower socioeconomic and minority areas. Wealthier, white neighborhoods are four times more likely to have greater access to supermarkets and a larger variety of produce and grocery items. Supermarkets often offer a wider variety of foods at lower prices versus convenience stores which typically offer only a small selection of grocery items and little to no fresh produce (p. 23). Freedman (2009) found food access varies in ways which are designed to appeal to “customers’ race, class, gender or environment” and “local food environments are reflections of social hierarchies” (p. 382). With the pull of the suburbs and city centers, many supermarkets have moved into these communities and with economic downturns, many mom-n-pop mercantiles are unable to survive. These shifts have contributed to a proliferation of food deserts. The limited access to healthy food options has been further exacerbated by the economic recession and has made it even more challenging for people to physically access food, whether they can afford it or not. Several programs are in existence to provide support for purchasing fresh fruits, vegetables and other staple food items. While these programs have struggled with budget cuts and ever increasing demands for their use, the need for food assistance programs is often the only reliable source of food income for some. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (known as WIC) was created in the 1960’s to support women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, postpartum and have infants or young children with their nutritional needs. A part of this program is the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) whose purpose is to “provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared foods from farmers’ markets t o women, infants and children who are nutritionally at risk and to expand awareness and use of farmers markets by consumers” (quoted in Just & Weninger, 1997, p. 902). Racine, Vaugh and Laditka (2010), show that “women who received and redeemed Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers were much more likely to purchase fruits/vegetables at farmers’ markets” (p. 441, emphasis added). While those enrolled in the FMNP program received vouchers they did not always redeem them due to misunderstandings of how to use the vouchers, lack of knowledge regarding the location of the farmer’s markets in their areas, or other barriers to accessibility, such as limited transportation or child care, and long work hours. Daponte and Bade (2006), conducted a study of the private food assistance network and supplied several recommendations for how the domestic food safety net could be strengthened – reinstate a purchase requirement (required to purchase food by a certain date, for a certain dollar amount, or a certain quantity), simplify the food stamp program (FSP) eligibility determination, have consistency in eligibility criteria between The Emergency
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Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the FSP and fold targeted food assistance programs into the Food Stamp program (p. 685-686). Neoliberalism Growing food insecurity and hunger in the United States has resulted in many food banks, charity food distribution centers, and soup kitchens becoming increasingly more important to supply food and meals to those with limited resources. Through the work of scholars (Guthman, J., 2011; Allen, P., 2004; Alkon, A. & Agyeman, J., 2011), popular authors (Kingsolver, B., 2007; Schlosser, E., 2001; Pollan, M., 2007), activists (Hauter, W., 2012), and medical/health workers (Cleveland Clinic, 1995-2013), there has been significant focus surrounding the issues of obesity, related health issues, food access, food security, and hunger. A change is occurring in the way people are talking about these issues and activists have begun to challenge the stereotypes of why people are going hungry in the United States. Focus is beginning to shift from analyzing food issues and the supposed obesity ‘epidemic’ to more of a neoliberal view related to food access, and how these are key issues in food production, food consumption, and food justice. Rajesh Makwana, executive director of Share the World's Resources (STWR), describes neoliberalism: “Neoliberalism favours the free-market as the most efficient method of global resource allocation. Consequently it favours large-scale, corporate commerce and the privatization of resources. The neoliberal experiment has failed to combat extreme poverty, has exacerbated global inequality, and is hampering international aid and development efforts” ( retrieved from Not surprisingly, a neoliberal economic approach is antithetical to food justice and security. Guthman (2011) argues that, “neoliberal economic policies have contributed to the heightened inequalities that have made cheap food a necessity and exacerbated the class and racial resentments that manifest in arguments about ‘good food’.” While neoliberalism values free enterprise, free markets, and free trade, the economic success of these approaches tends to happen at the expense of the marginalized. Statements such as “voting with your dollars” or “vote with your fork” reflect a neoliberal tone and have “contributed to the idea that health is a personal responsibility more than a social one, which has allowed intensified social scolding of the obese” (p. 18). I believe these statements have also led to increased criticism of those who
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use programs such as WIC, FMNP, and FSP. Statements throughout social media outlets and comments made under articles speaking about the increasing use of government food assistance programs, describe those using food stamps with disparaging terms such as lazy, addicts, homeless, losers, and worse. For example, recently posted on Facebook was this cartoon describing how food stamps create dependency. The sad reality is hunger can affect anyone. Hunger According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2009) and USDA (2010), 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2010, with 16.2 million of those being children; in 2010, 14.5 percent of households were food insecure. This equates to one in six people in the U.S. who are hungry and one in four children who do not have enough to eat (retrieved from Many of these households are minority families and/or single parent head-of-household homes; there are also significant misconceptions that people who are hungry are not working and may live on the streets. In fact, 36 percent of client households served by the Feeding America network have one or more adults working. In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children. Households which had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.6 percent); especially households with children headed by single women (36.8 percent) or single men (24.9 percent), Black non-Latino/a households (25.1 percent) and Latino/a households (26.2 percent). Lastly, 57.2 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major Federal food assistance programs –Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamp Program), The National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (retrieved from While hunger primarily affects those of lower socioeconomic status and minority populations, hunger can affect anyone and is no respecter of race, socioeconomic status, education level, or gender. These studies have shown the significant need for change to happen in food markets in order for low-income and minority Americans to have greater access to food. Much work is being done by organizations such as Feeding America (, Growing Power (, Hopelink (; farms such as Oxbow Farm ( and Clean Greens ( and individuals such as Vandana Shiva ( and Frances Moore Lappe’ ( Collectively these groups and individuals are working to overcome barriers created by cost, class, race and perceptions of who the hungry are in order to provide greater access to all food spaces. However, there is a need for the continued critique and analysis of these spaces and for groups to maintain responsibility and accountability to the populations they are reaching out to and serving. One must ask the question, are these programs perpetuating the food injustice they are working to overcome? Are programs such as Growing Power or Small Planet perpetuating the idea of healthy, fresh, whole food being primarily available to white, middle and upper class that have ready, easy access and can afford it? My personal belief is that every little moment which creates change improves our food system and raises awareness about the injustices within this system.

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Food Justice While organizations, farms and individuals are doing work to create sustainability and food justice, progress can be slow and change can take a great amount of time. The incremental nature of activism and the seemingly insurmountable issues with structural change create great tension within these organizations and between the individuals working in the food justice movement. While the incremental steps may not feel sufficient for long-term change, they are a necessary part of the process and allow those working in food justice, myself included, to feel small achievements and forward progress (Allen, 2004, pp. 206, 207). For example, in an effort to keep a positive tone within a campaign to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, of which I am a local coordinator, certain individuals within the group were asked to curb their more sensational claims of the health impacts of GE foods. This led to some people leaving the campaign as they felt their voices were being silenced and they did not appreciate the incremental nature of the campaign calling for labeling first versus banning GE foods altogether. However, from my perspective, it is through this slow, steady movement forward that structural changes begin to take place and create long-term sustainability. I concur with Allen that several key pieces are necessary in creating a successful, progressive food movement: “alternatives to the current agrifood system, articulating a unified vision and expanding participation” (2004, p. 209-212). A significant amount of detail surrounds each of the key portions previously mentioned and it will take a great amount of work to accomplish every task; however, it is through the work of all these parts the alternative food movement will achieve greater success. Author and social activist, Frances Moore Lappe’, (1990) reminds us, ‘We cannot move toward a future we cannot imagine, and we cannot imagine a future we don’t believe is possible’” (as quoted in Allen, 2004, p. 210). Project Possibilities Due to the constraints of time and space I am unable to do intellectual justice to the following important people and issues: women farmers, immigrant farmers, and farm workers. However, some observations are worth sharing here and have further possibilities for expanding the work I have started. While many of the farms on which I completed internships did have women farmers, many of them worked with a male partner rather than solely on their own. In the future, I would be interested in engaging with women who are running their own farms regarding the issues they face surrounding gender and power in agriculture. For example, McMahon (2011) speaks to a need for “gender-troubling” of how agriculture is governed through food safety standards and regulations in regards to women in farming and as purchasers of food. She argues “we will know if the promise of food sovereignty has been realized when we see discussions of gender politics within discussion of food production” (p. 410 -411). For McMahon, by assigning the gender of male to the field of agriculture women are excluded from the table and the discussion surrounding food sovereignty and food politics. There has been a rise in women farmers in recent years. “The number of farms managed by women rose 13% from 1997 to 2002. There are 822,383 female operators and 237,819 principal operators who are women - roughly one in every ten farms is managed by a woman” (retrieved from and these women need to be included in food justice conversations.

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Research shows women farmers tend to find their niches and more acceptance within sustainable agriculture and organic farming communities (Trauger, 2004, p. 303). In contrast to conventional agricultural methods, women farmers tend to focus more on using less pesticides and incorporating more holistic models of farming which give back to the earth more than is taken away. This has nothing to do with sustainable agriculture being a ‘softer’ or ‘kinder’ way of farming, rather it is a way to share their knowledge and skills with their communities and as one woman farmer stated, “they are fully capable of doing the work” (p. 304). Another piece missing from my research is an engagement with immigrant farmers. In Washington’s Carnation Valley there are several pieces of land farmed by Hmong people, and in areas throughout Washington State more generally there are Latino/as, Africans, and other populations who are tending to and farming the land. This would be another area to engage with and thus offer additional framing to understand the barriers of class, power, access and race within the field of agriculture. Immigrant farmers face numerous difficulties within the agricultural community; issues such as access to farm aid programs, labor regulation definitions limiting who they can hire and discrimination based on race. Minkoff-Zern, L., Peluso, N., Sowerwine, J., and Getz, C. (2011) in their chapter on race and regulation discuss a case of a Hmong farmer who used a cultural tradition of family labor to work on his farm. For example, California labor regulations and their definition of “family” require farmers to provide workers compensation and insurance to protect against any injury. These regulations dispossess small family farmers of using their traditional cultural farming methods and sharing the labor on each other’s farms. Often the prices of these “coverages” would put a farmer out of business or create an overhead so high he/she is unable to compete in the marketplace (pp. 65-85). Significant benefits result from including immigrant farmers in local farming communities and farming enterprises. “Immigrant farm[ing] enterprises contribute to local community well-being—community financial capital, in particular, but also cultural, natural, and human capital” (Lewis, 2009, p. 151). Farmers and agricultural communities could benefit greatly from learning alongside immigrant farmers and perhaps incorporating farming techniques from immigrant farmers’ home countries into local farming practices. Lastly, I am missing a core group at the heart of farming – the farm worker. The farm worker is someone who works on the farm either by choice or because of no other work opportunities. While many farm workers are immigrants, often undocumented, and/or people of color, there are farm workers who are white. Most farm workers, regardless of race or citizenship status, live at or below the poverty level. The farm worker is often paid the lowest wage for the amount of work they do. Oftentimes the farm laborer is unable to afford the food he/she grows and harvests in the fields. The poverty level for 2012 was set at $23,050 (total yearly income) for a family of four; which equates to approximately $16 per day. Most people served by the Feeding America/Food Lifeline organization have an average annual income of $16,710; which equates to approximately $11 per day for a family of four. Farmworkers’ wages have dropped 20 to 25 percent while agricultural sales have increased by 32 percent in Fresno County, a major farming area in California, alone (p. 123, 124). One of the most upsetting facts I came across throughout my readings and literature searches was of the food insecurity of farmworkers. Despite the fact my research project did not incorporate farmworkers into my interviews or participant observation I have begun to recognize a fundamentally horrifying fact of the food system within the United States. The laborers harvesting produce in the field are unable to afford buying the produce they grow and harvest.
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Brown and Getz (2011) state, “inconsistencies in the limited available data notwithstanding, the finding that approximately half of the farmworker households surveyed are, in USDA parlance, unable to access enough food for an active, healthy life, should be viewed as nothing short of astonishing” (p. 131, emphasis in the original). Drawing attention to the paradox between farmworkers’ wages, food insecurity and rising agricultural sales will hopefully open a conversation surrounding food security and “the underlying dynamics that produce hunger and hunger-induced migration” (p. 140). This conversation can occur anywhere from the grocery store line, to the farmer’s market stand, to social media outlets, to activist organizations. The possibilities of starting such a conversation are endless – from the rallying cry of activist movements across the country calling for solutions to the industrialization of the food system in the United States, to kids raising money to fight hunger. I hope this paper, my blog, and portfolio will contribute to an increasing awareness of the disparities within our food system and open conversations to begin creating change at a local level, nationally and globally. Conclusion David Harvey, leading social theorist, (1996: 106) asks, “so who and where are the agents of social change?’ His answer is, ‘everyone, everywhere’” (as quoted in Allen, 2004, p. 217). 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 in time. The research I have conducted, the people I have spoken with, and the spaces I have observed impacted me in ways I never imagined. The intentions I have for my work are as a conversation and discussion starter; for activists, farmers, and market managers to take the observations I have made and begin conversations surrounding how they can continually increase access and justice surrounding these food spaces. I hope this project, especially the blog (, I created is accessible to many people and provides an analysis of my observations with the hope of broadening peoples’ awareness and inspiring them to become more involved in their communities’ food spaces or, perhaps to even create a food space of their own and teach others what they learn from their own observations. 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 of such choices are. Ultimately, I am energized and remain hopeful by the prospect of people becoming involved in the food movement and activism in their area. This is how I believe my work makes the greatest contribution to cultural studies – it takes the conversation out of the classroom and applies the theories learned into actual field work; thereby fulfilling the goal of praxis; a goal I believe should be the highest goal of a cultural studies worker. As John Steinbeck writes in Grapes of Wrath (1939), “…And in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage” (p. 349).

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from website: 852171. Lewis, H. (2009): From Mexico to Iowa: New Immigrant Farmers' Pathways and Potentials, Community Development, 40:2, 139-153. Lobo, R. Helpful Agricultural Tourism Definitions. UC Small Farm Program, UC Cooperative Extension, Univ. of California. retrieved May 21, 2013 from website: Makwana, R. (2006). Neoliberalism and Economic Globalization. Retrieved May 14, 2013, from website: Massey, D. (1992). Politics and Space/Time. In, D. Oswell (Ed.), Cultural Theory (2010) (pp. 3-23). London: SAGE. McMahon, M. (January 01, 2011). Standard fare or fairer standards: Feminist reflections on agrifood governance. Agriculture and Human Values, 28, 3, 401-412. Minkoff-Zern, L., N. Peluso, J. Sowerwine, & C. Getz. (2011). Race and Regulation. In Alkon, A. H., & J. Agyeman. (Eds.), Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability. (65-85). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Morland, K., S. Wing, R. A. Diez, & C. Poole. (January 01, 2002). Neighborhood characteristics associated with the location of food stores and food service places. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22, 1, 23-9. Pollan, M. (2007). The omnivore's dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin. Racine, E. F., A.S. Vaughn & S. B. Laditka. (March 01, 2010). Farmers' Market Use among African-American Women Participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110, 3, 441-446. Schlosser, E. (2001). Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Steinbeck, J., & Herman Finkelstein Collection (Library of Congress). (1939). The grapes of wrath. New York: Viking Press. Trauger, A. (January 01, 2004). 'Because they can do the work': women farmers in sustainable agriculture in Pennsylvania, USA. Gender, Place and Culture: a Journal of Feminist Geography, 11, 2, 289-307. Watson, M. (2012). Bourdieu’s Food Space. Gastronomica: A Journal of Food and Culture. Retrieved April 28, 2013, from website:

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