My research utilizes historical and qualitative methods to examine how marginalized communities are organizing against environmental and food inequities.
So far, my research has:
Documented how food justice organizations are challenging colorblindness, white privilege, and white supremacy through urban agriculture programs that work with immigrants and formerly incarcerated peoples;
Detailed how the Good Food, Good Jobs (GFGJ) movement is challenging conventional food desert politics and the Walmart/Obama alliance through underscoring that demand-side policies, not supply-side policies, can address the structural roots of inequities in food access, and;
Critiqued public-private partnerships designed to close the grocery gap because their supply-side strategies do not fully address the economic access barriers in low-income communities that are rooted in institutional racism and political and economic marginalization.
Currently, I am pursuing four lines of inquiry:
Urban Agriculture & Urban Development
This work explores the contradictory role of urban agriculture programs as a way to address the economic and political marginalization of low-income communities of color as well as a facilitator of gentrification-oriented development projects—a dual-function that creates tension between urban agriculture projects, community development strategies, and City Hall-led redevelopment projects. Such work also explores the community-based conflicts that emerge between urban agriculturalists of different race and class identities and how these tensions are reflective of differing conceptions of community, development, and agriculture, and with them contrasting visions of the urban.
Food Systems and Democratization
This line of inquiry examines how food-based activism is working to democratize the food system through democratizing the State. Of particular focus is how participatory budgeting, food policy councils, and community food assessments are transforming the relationship between food systems and the State away from Big Food and Big Ag towards regional and local food systems grounded in participatory and equity-oriented principles and practices.
Food Activism and the Carceral State
This research examines the myriad ways residents, community-based organizations, and racial justice organizers are utilizing food to both contest and create alternatives to mass incarceration, the youth control complex, and the new jim crow. Such scholarship focuses on efforts in California and New York to challenge the carceral state through living-wage jobs in the alternative food economy for formerly incarcerates people, youth farm programs as an alternative to juvenile detention, and rural development strategies that center on strengthening the small farm economy rather than relying on prison construction and high incarceration rates.
The Public Food System
This scholarship explores and theorizes the “public food system” and the potential of the State to strengthen and expand a publically controlled food system that is environmentally sustainable, economically inclusive, and socially just. There are many areas where a public food system already exists but is understudied and undertheorized concerning its role in restructuring the conventional food system away from injustice and unsustainability, such as commissaries on military bases, school food programs, and correctional food programs, for instance. How might food scholars rethink a public food system for the twenty first century by shifting our understandings of what the food system is, where food activism is occurring, and what the food system could be?