CCSU Professor Sheds Light on the Complex Relationship Between Food Activism and Food Insecurity

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Abigail Adams, Chair of CCSU’s Dept. of Anthropology, and her undergraduate team are investigating the complex relationship between food activism (such as farm-to-table, locavore, organic, and urban farming) and poor, urban communities.

Specifically, they are focusing on the relationship between Urban Oaks, a four-acre organic farm in New Britain, and the surrounding community which is one the city’s poorest and most diverse.

Four CCSU students have already been involved with the project with two students currently active. The students’ research is already attracting attention and won a poster competition at the Society for Applied Anthropology.

Adams and her team are investigating how food movements interact with communities that have high levels of “food insecurity” – when households are hungry or at risk of hunger. How are food movements affecting communities in terms of consciousness, choices, nutrition, and disease such as diabetes and obesity?

So far, research has revealed a complex and often contradictory relationship. While the national conversation on hunger and food insecurity paints poor communities as full of passive or bad eaters, Adams has found this New Britain neighborhood full of people who are excited about healthy, organic food.

Although barriers such as time constraints often make it difficult for the poor to realize their healthy eating goals, many are immigrants who grew up growing their own food. “I want to turn away from the ‘food desert’ term and look at how people [in poor communities] are being responsive and creative. Making their own food, working hard, and sharing resources,” said Adams.

Residents in this New Britain neighborhood are informed about healthy eating and worried about GMOs [genetically modified organisms]. Urban Oaks is supporting a summer healthy eating program at Smalley Elementary and regularly does community outreach. Despite this excitement, locally sourced & organic food is often out of the price range of neighborhood residents. Moving forward, students will observe a summer healthy program at Smalley Elementary and help with “food diaries,” wherein local residents keep track of their food purchasing and consumption to gain a better picture of this crucial and misunderstood issue.

Through her continuing research, Adams hopes to better understand the intersection between food movements and poor communities and help them work more effectively together for a healthier future.

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