Politics of Food Access in Food Insecure Communities
Freedman, Darcy Ann
This research strives to tell a new story regarding the social production of health by focusing on the relations of power influencing food access and related health conditions. This new story begins by challenging existing tools used to understand the public’s health and offers a new theory-methods package, “materialist praxis”, as means for activating population health perspectives and for materializing praxis-oriented research. I then apply a materialist praxis research approach to transform three Boys and Girls Clubs in Nashville, Tennessee from youth-serving organizations to farmers’ markets. This participatory, situated, reflective, and materialized research process provided an opportunity for children, youth, and adults to author a discourse of resistance and possibility with respect to pressing health inequities such as obesity and food insecurity. Through performances in and to space, this research also provided opportunities for uncovering the spatially, temporally, and socially constructed boundaries influencing food access. These boundaries combine to make “real, fresh, and good” foods – foods considered to be healthier than and superior to foods described as “bad, rotten, and junk” – inaccessible to many people residing in socially marginalized locations. Data analysis also depicted a nuanced understanding of food access by focusing on the financial and time costs influencing access. The results of this study reveal that the politics of food access are complex and intersectional but nevertheless discernable and most importantly changeable. This dissertation concludes by exploring how this materially and community-based process of research facilitated the re-creation of relationships between food and food practices by transforming social structures and, in turn, human agents. I also explore how the relations of power influencing food access are intricately connected to the production and reproduction of health disparities more broadly, and argue for the use of materialist praxis in future research focused on the social production of health as well as for the development of social change efforts focused on redressing unequal and unjust relations of power influencing access to food.