Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition
Objectives : While federal nutrition programs have just begun to allow some policy, systems and environmental (PSE) approaches, social movements for community food justice have been working for PSE change for decades. This presentation gleans lessons and examples for PSE approaches from their work.
Methods : Participatory research with community leaders in food justice work in US communities, including case studies over 7 years with 5 community-based food justice organizations, supplemented with literature and practice reviews.
Results : Food justice organizers begin with the end in mind, and their end is not behavior change or even food security, but community-led food systems that deliver equity and health. Their work is not evidence based, but ethics based and evidence informed. Their strategies do not center food, nor even food systems, but people and communities; e.g., they design food production strategies not to maximize vegetable yields (though these are still substantial), but to nourish leadership development, relationships, and dignity. Organizers invest heavily in networking, mentoring, and advocating activities. Any attention to individual behavior change outcomes, such as vegetable consumption, is forced by grantors; and though these organizations struggle financially, many pass up funding with such requirements. Starting in the 1970s, food justice organizations and collaborations have emerged in thousands of US communities. Without any core funding or other infrastructure support, collectively they have secured national food policy changes such as WIC farmers market programs, community food project funding streams, and school food improvements. They have transformed community landscapes with gardens, farms, markets, cooperatives, and community kitchens by nurturing community leadership and power to reshape their own local physical, political and social environments. They have helped found food policy councils, to institutionalize these powers. This presentation will share practical PSE strategies.
Conclusions : 1) Those interested in PSE approaches to create public health nutrition and reduce health disparities can learn from expertise in this movement. 2) To change PSEs for these ends, a top investment priority should be supporting organizations who have been doing this work for decades.
Funding Sources : USDA/NIFA/AFRI & NIH
Associate Professor, Wyoming Excellence Chair in Community & Public Health
University of Wyoming