Saturday, September 24, 2016

Inspiration from "Improving Access to Food Systems Among Communities of Color: A Food Justice Issue"

In doing some background research for a literature review and photovoice research project I am conducting this fall, I came across the 2015 report, "Improving Access to Food Systems Among Communities of Color: A Food Justice Issue Report to the Oregon Food Bank"  - written by Alma M.O. Trinidad, Helen Camden, and Anne Coleman of Portland State University's Center to Advance Racial Equity Research, in cooperation with the Oregon Food Bank.

I am interested in this report for many reasons, and it's an excellent example of the kind of work I want to continue doing in my doctoral program and beyond. A few aspects I'll mention here are the authors' engagement and empowerment of community members in the process of research and advocacy, and the sensitivity with which they considered different cultural compositions of Portland neighborhoods. They did a great job of identifying the aims and methods of their research, and presenting their findings in a way that reflects participants' voices. I also really like the way they looked at leadership for change on various scales, (micro, messo, macro).

Of the three food justice discourses the researchers identified (rights, anti-poverty, and community food security), one theme that caught my eye was that the community food security discourse "lacks discussion on epistemology (‘knowledge production’)." (This brought me back to Trinidad's 2012 article on Critical Indigenous Pedagogy of Place (CIPP), which I included in my review of literature on food justice and pedagogy last spring. This was another really thoughtfully conducted piece, which I also recommend for scholars interested in these topics.) The authors state that "infusing CIPP, food democracy requires that community members develop the knowledge and skills necessary to actively participate in building food systems, and to have an impact on community initiatives. Thus, the role of a practitioner can be framed as a leader for change."

Informed by these findings, the authors provide what I think are seriously good recommendations for "outreach, training, and community education on anti-oppressive practice among existing leaders and community builders, creating pathways for former refugees and immigrants to be in positions of leadership and change, and integration of multi-generational and historical trauma informed work." Some questions that came up for me in considering these recommendations are: How do partners who are looking for other "culturally responsive entities" identify and bridge to one another? Given the importance of ongoing mentor relationships, what can be done to sustain the work of mentors so that the leadership-for-change model can continue to be rejuvenating for all? How do people living and working in Portland's different geographic areas think about "critical awareness?" What efforts exist (or could begin) to cultivate this, and what can educators and leaders do to support it?

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​Trinidad, A.M.O., Camden, H., & Coleman, A. (2015). Improving access to food systems among communities of color: a food justice issue. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University.