University of Virginia PLAC 5500
BELMONT, CHARLOTTESVILLE BERNICE O’BRIEN
TABLE OF CONTENTS
BELMONT, CHARLOTTESVILLE 4
FOOD JUSTICE AUDIT 8
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT 10
SERVICE LEARNING 10 LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW 11 THOUGHT LEADER INTERVIEWS 13
CASE STUDIES 15 ROOTS & SHOOTS INTERGENERATIONAL GARDEN 15
COMMUNITY TABLE 17
COMMUNITY PLANNING IDEAS 18
CLASS PLANNING IDEAS 19
BELMONT MAPS 22 RESOURCES 23 LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW 25 THOUGHT
This paper represents a semester-long seminar in the UVA Architecture School investigating food justice in Charlottesville. A continuation of previous work on the area’s food systems, this class represents a unique hands-on and interdisciplinary approach to academic and social exploration.
This paper represents the culmination of a semester-long exploration of food justice. Few students had ever heard of ‘Food Justice’ before and our experiences and growth mirror the awakening of the larger food system movement to social and environmental justice. This seminar had two complementary foci: surveying the theoretical literature on food justice and transforming academic practice into community engagement and the study of food justice within Charlottesville. Guest speakers, class discussions, field trips, community service, and interviews with community members helped to shape student concepts of food justice. Products include a comprehensive “Food Justice Audit” for Charlottesville, presentations to community leaders, interview transcripts, neighborhood maps, and final papers made available online (UVA IEN, 2013). There you will find the collective work of five years dissecting, describing, and analyzing our local food system. This year’s contribution on food justice echoes the evolution of national dialogue from issues of food access to security and sovereignty and now justice. Food justice is not simply an issue of food access; it is a call for access to the land, access to democratic processes, access to mutual respect, access to culture, access to safe working conditions, access to a sustainable future, access to a voice through changing food systems.
Food justice is an emerging concept representing fundamental shifts in the food system movement. An evolving terminology has seen food security, sovereignty, and now justice come to the forefront of the social conscious. Environmental justice is a concept and movement that came to the forefront of environmental management in the 1990s and
helped serve as a model and motivator for those thinking about food systems. Organizations around the country began to link social and environmental justice to their work with food and the new millennium saw a groundswell of associated name changes: New York’s Just Food, the Center for Food & Justice, and the Community Food & Justice Coalition (Gottlieb & Joshi, 2010). While a powerful idea, a universally accepted definition of food justice has yet to emerge. As organizations and individuals continuously work to reevaluate their purpose and the role of food justice within their life and work, several definitions have emerged.
Food justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food…[that] is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally- appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals. –
~ The Social Justice Learning Institute
Food Justice is the right of communities everywhere to produce, process, distribute, access, and eat good food regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, or community.
~ The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Differences in these conceptualizations of food justice stem from diverse cultural, institutional, and historical perspectives of those working to make our food system more just. Several key components emerge from a cursory review of the literature and organization material; appearing again and again with slight variations. This chorus includes language such as “right to,” “sustainable,” “healthy,” “appropriate,” “workers,” and “community.” The Brooklyn Food Coalition has identified three pillars “that define food justice and the movement behind it: healthy food for all, sustainable food systems, and justice for food workers” (2013). These issues extend roots throughout the production, sale, consumption, and waste of food systems and scale to include local and global processes.
I would argue that parsing out the details of a definition might be less important than direct action to work towards a just food system. Borrowing a phrase from educational reform, the food justice movement may launch with the mantra ‘ready, fire, aim’ (Weinbaum, et al., 2004). Food justice has tremendous implications for individuals and families, while being transformative when applied to the communities. Individuals are the basic unit of food consumption and must face the effects of food on their health and well being. Migrant farm laborers, fast food workers, and a senior served by Meals on Wheels are all examples of individuals whose situation could be dramatically effected by a realization of food justice. Food is culture and many family and community dynamics are dictated by food systems. Many view for food justice in terms of production through community gardens, urban agriculture, cooperatives and other entrepreneurial solutions that can stimulate community investment and growth. While some in the movement advocate for a bottom-up approach, synchronized scaling of food justice globally is equally important. The United States has tremendous power over international food system. Its purchasing power, technological research and development, and surplus of grains hold immense potential to impact the food justice movement. A global food justice consciousness may include changes to food aid policy, farmer subsidies, genetically modified crops, immigration, and trade agreements. If food justice becomes part of our daily lexicon, communities hold the potential to transform issues of social and environmental justice.
Charlottesville is broken down into nineteen neighborhoods, each with their own character and socio-economic demographics (Charlottesville, 2013a). Belmont neighborhood is located in the Southeast corner of the city; 403 acres bordered by Moore’s Creek, 6th St. SW, and the CSX Railway (City Panning Commission, 2005). The modern day Belmont is actually the combination of late 19th Century neighborhoods Belmont and Carlton. Belmont is an entrance to the city from the Monticello Avenue I-64 interchange, is within walking distance
of the Downtown Mall, and has rolling hills with vistas of the Blue Ridge (City Planning Commission, 2005).
Figure 1. Map of Charlottesville neighborhoods including Belmont (Charlottesville, 2013a).
According to data collected in 2009, Belmont has a population of 4,008 a 24% increase since 2000, but only a 2% increase since 1990. Median household income was $32,364, which is 18% percent lower than the city average (City-Data, 2009). Using the Orange Dot Report’s working income for a self-sufficient family, $35,003, nearly 50% of Belmont families struggle to provide transportation and childcare after providing for basic survival.
Charlottesville as a whole has roughly 30% of families failing to obtain a self-sufficient income (2011). Although the percent of Belmont residents living below the national poverty line, 13.8%, is lower than the city-wide average, the prevalence of families struggling to meet transportation and childcare costs demands closer attention (City-Data, 2009).
Demographics have been experiencing accelerating changes as new residents are relocating to Belmont. Charlottesville has many attractive features and is an effective self- advertiser and has been placed on a myriad of lifestyle lists (Chamber of Commerce, 2011). Belmont is garnering a reputation as a hip and desirable community, which has been a boon for new specialty stores and restaurants. Figure 2 shows an increase in housing costs focused primarily in the North of the neighborhood.
Figure 2. Dollar change since 2000 in median house value by block (City-Data, 2009).
Belmont has many strengths that can be used as leverage points to address gaps and opportunities for growth. Many value Belmont for its sense of community, varied architecture, rolling hills with beautiful vistas, and proximity to both Downtown and Monticello. The neighborhood has also been the target of significant city investment such as its designation as a priority neighborhood from 1996-1999 (City Planning Commission, 2005). Like other neighborhoods, Belmont has room to reduce the proportion of its population living in poverty and increase economic development opportunities by zoning for light industry, already established in some areas, and supporting growing businesses (Orange Dot Report, 2011). Although Belmont is often cited for its sense of community, the ties between Belmont and Carlton can be further strengthened to ensure equitable development opportunities.
Food justice in the Belmont neighborhood was assessed using a variety of methods: a student researched ‘Food Justice Audit,’ interviews with community members, service with the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, and mapping. My partner, Ariel Ardura, and I also conducted a preliminary survey of food related establishments (markets, convenience stores, and restaurants) within Belmont. Although the map created from this effort (see Figure 3) addresses food access, this is an important first step in starting a larger conversation on food justice. No full service grocery stores are located in Belmont with the markets and convenience stores concentrated in the Northern half and perimeter of the neighborhood. Most restaurants were sited in two apparent hubs: downtown Belmont and near where Carlton Rd. intersects the CSX Railroad. It should also be noted that while many restaurants including The Local source locally and serve fresh and healthy meals they are out of the price range of many Belmont residents. This map identifies a inequitable distribution of food within the neighborhood and reinforces the disconnect between the Northern Belmont and Southeastern Carlton.
Figure 3. Restaurants, Markets, and Convenience Stores in Belmont, Charlottesville.
FOOD JUSTICE AUDIT
The ‘Food Justice Audit’ developed for this class is believed to be the first assessment tool of its kind. It is designed to identify community strengths, gaps, and opportunities for growth in several key dimensions of food justice. The audit includes seven dimensions for analysis: public health, food and farm workers, food-based economic development, school- based food and nutrition, food access infrastructure, policy, and food insecurity and hunger. Each of these areas is evaluated using overarching, city-wide, and neighborhood specific
questions. Sub-questions are aimed at assessing support by city policies, local organizations, and community support. An example from public health is presented below (see Figure 4).
Figure 4. Example from the completed ‘Food Justice Audit.’
Is this present in the
comprehensive plan, neighborhood plan, or any other city or official documentation?
Is this the goal,
mission, or is it acknowledged by any organization within the locality?
Is there community engagement or support around this issue?
Does the neighborhood demonstrate a decrease in diet related diseases over the last ten years?
According to the 2012 MAPP Report, the city as a whole has an increase in obesity.
YES. The mission of UACC, an organization deeply involved in the neighborhood, is in alignment with this goal.
YES. Diet related diseases normally have a lot of support.
Methodology included dividing the audit into eight sections for students to complete. Students then used a combination of Internet research, review of city planning documents, and community engagement through service and interviews to answer each of the guiding questions. Two drafts of the audit were compiled and feedback was given to students who were then able to compile a final audit. I contributed to the audit by completing sections of the food-based economic development, ED 11-13, and school-based food and nutrition, S 1-7. I also completed the Belmont specific questions concerning economic development, school food, and food access-infrastructure. Challenges included difficulty casting a wide enough net during research to capture all relevant policies and organizations. The limited number of interviews completed during the semester gave some sense of community feelings, but was not a large enough sample size to draw conclusions with any real confidence.
Using the audit to evaluate food justice in Belmont, we have identified several neighborhood strengths as well as gaps that represent opportunities for growth. Identified
strengths include availability of fresh food at Clark Elementary School, community engagement, the prevalence of backyard gardens, and Belmont’s reputation for locally sourced restaurants and stores. Opportunities for growth include increased access to affordable fresh food, reduced occurrence obesity related disease, and improved transportation and neighborhood connectivity.
Real change does not occur in an academic or theoretical vacuum so community engagement was a goal of this seminar. Participant observation is a method used by social scientists in which the researcher immerses him or herself in the culture or social setting of interest (Macionis & Plummer, 2005). Approaching such qualitative social research with experiential observation and self-reflection on personal perspectives and biases results in more authentic understandings of cultures. This course sought to prepare students to navigate social sciences research by identifying common communication mistakes, discussing the IAP2 Core Values of Public Participation, and assigning students ethnographic exercises, local service partners, and community members with whom to conduct life history interviews.
My partner and I were placed with the Charlottesville affiliate of the international non- profit Habitat for Humanity for the service-learning component of our seminar. The Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville was founded in 1991 and has worked to provide affordable housing in partnership with low-income families, volunteers, and the larger community. Perceiving Charlottesville to be in a local affordable housing crisis, they have adopted a “New Paradigm” of the Habitat model that shifts the focus from single homes to developing whole communities (HH of Greater Charlottesville, 2013). The mixed-income Sunrise community, at one of two trailer parks managed by Habitat, is the first of its kind developed by a Habitat
affiliate. The work underway at Sunrise and in the planning stages at Southwood trailer park exemplify the transformative power community planning attending to social justice.
We spent time at both Southwood and Sunrise community centers during our time with Habitat and gained valuable insight into their community engagement practices. At Southwood we were able to sit in on several block-planning meetings discussing the park’s future and community education presentations including a session by Arc of the Piedmont on financial security. Community meetings worked to lower participation costs by providing snacks, activities for children, raffles for Food Lion gift cards, meeting at different times and days, and presenting all information in both English and Spanish with a translator. Unfortunately I am monolingual and my experiences at Southwood have impressed upon me the importance of meeting community members where they are and that includes their primary language. While at Sunrise, which is within Belmont, we worked with the children’s Tuesday Club providing snacks and after-school activities. The children and few older residents we interacted with at Sunrise lived in the newly constructed apartments and townhouses. The high-quality community center resources were accessible, but we saw very few of the majority of residents remaining in trailers come to the center. I took away from my time with Habitat a belief in the importance of meeting community members where there are and extension of services to all residents equally. Both of these lessons have important food justice implications.
Life History Interview
Chef and Reverend Ralph Brown has lived in the Venable neighborhood for over fifty years and offers a unique perspective on the Charlottesville commercial food industry. In early April I met with him in the church his father built and he now leads to learn more about his life history and relationship with food. He remembers helping in the kitchen from an early age where they relied on produce and meat raised in their backyard. “There were complete
gardens where they raised everything….you got used to eating things fresh from the garden” (Brown, 3 April, 2013). A common theme in our conversation was the strong ties in the African American community connected by the church and food. As one of twelve children and according to Brown, “the kind of system that was used in the African American community back then, especially when you had a lot of children, was you took care of each other” (Brown, 3 April, 2013). One of the reasons for this was limited access as “desegregation had not fully taken place…so [you] didn’t have access to stores…so people had to learn to share” (Brown, 3 April, 2013).
Although Chef Brown’s father was a dairy famer turned carpenter and minister, most of his sons went to work in the commercial food industry. Starting as a pantry person at the Aberdeen Barn steakhouse, Chef Brown began working on food service as a teenager. “The food service industry was largely left to the African American community” and although the Jim Crow era was ending there was still a concept of servitude (Brown, 3 April, 2013). There was good money to be made, and “even through it was a throwback to slavery…the mentality wasn’t the same” (Brown, 3 April, 2013). Chef Brown progressed in management even running the UVA Newcomb dining hall before attending culinary arts school later in life. Chef Brown took time to comment on his own diet and the changes he has to make from the home cooking he grew up with. “You could eat all [the] stuff that people ate in the African American community because you were going to burn it up out there on the job,” but today’s lifestyle combined with traditional foods now leads to hypertension and cholesterol problems (Brown, 3 April, 2013).
According to Chef Brown, food justice is largely one of having the right to determine what is or is not in our food. “People, which are the driving force of change for everything, have to make their voices be heard” and let the government know we demand more
accountability and do not want pesticides, contaminants, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food (Brown, 3 April, 2013). He predicts we will soon see an awakening of a widespread food movement focused on self-advocacy and social change. This concept of Food Justice fits well with those presented earlier as it focuses on the right to define one owns food system. Chef Brown praised the new Piedmont Valley Community College Culinary Arts program and believes African American youth need to recognize the entrepreneurial opportunities of Charlottesville’s food industry (Brown, 3 April, 2013).
Thought Leader Interviews
Other community members were identified as ‘Thought Leaders’ within their neighborhood with unique perspectives on food justice. Students approached community members they encountered during their service, community engagement or who were active within local institutions. The goal of these interviews was to elicit planning ideas from community members and give voice to local opinions and needs.
Laura Brown of Casa Alma Catholic Workers Mission spoke with me over the phone in early April about her thoughts on food justice and experiences advocating for a community garden in Rives Park. Casa Alma promotes peace and justice by providing hospitality to homeless families. Located on three contiguous lots in Carlton, they strive to live sustainably with opportunities for learning and reflection (Casa Alma, 2013). As part of their mission, Casa Alma is working to transform their urban lots into a self-sustaining community center for food production. Chickens, Nigerian pygmy goats, honeybees, and an organic garden with composting can all be found at Casa Alma (Brown, April 4, 2013). I approached Laura because I have previously volunteered at Casa Alma and was impressed with their mindful leadership within the community. I was also eager to speak with a resident in Carlton and hoped to learn more about the relationship between Carlton and Belmont.
As a member of the Friends of Rives Park, Laura Brown has been involved with attempts to site a community garden in Rives Park, Carlton. There is limited access to fresh produce for Carlton residents who have no local markets or stores within walking distance (Brown, April 4, 2013). Members of Friends of Rives Park canvassed to gauge community support for a garden and hear wants such as an increased police presence at the park. However, their submitted proposal did not make the first stage of the master planning process. Laura Brown is worried that community support will wane while the first stage of park renovations are undertaken with no garden. Food justice means developing the right relationships so that people have access to affordable food produced locally and with respect for the community, workers, and environment (Brown, April 4, 2013).
Daphne Keiser, principle of Clark Elementary School in Belmont, met with me in her office in late April to share her experiences with food, education, and community engagement. I approached Keiser because my portion of the audit dealt with food justice in schools and I wanted to learn more about Clark’s institutional role within Belmont. Approximately 78% of students at Clark are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program (Keiser, April 26, 2013). An award of a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Produce (FFVP) grant and partnerships with the PB&J Fund and other community organizations has allowed Clark to provide its students with a healthy snack daily, dinners at school events, and food baskets for holidays. The increased presence of fresh produce in schools has begun to change student preferences according to Daphne Keiser. She recounted a time when all of the students out to dinner with her opted for a side of vegetables instead of French fries (Keiser, April 26, 2013). Varied choices at lunch, time spent in the school garden, and nutrition instruction when combined with access to fresh, healthy options is transforming a new generation at Clark Elementary.
It was an invaluable learning experience to speak with Ralph Brown, Laura Brown and Daphne Keiser about their perspectives and experiences with the Charlottesville food system. These interviews informed the final audit and class presentations by helping to give context and identify strengths and opportunities for growth. These ideas, presented in a later section, are community generated and represent the feelings and needs of Belmont community members. Although they are not to be interpreted as explicit policy recommendations, they signify the start of a conversation that has important implications for future planning decisions.
Case studies are useful tools to better understand how other communities have addressed the ideas and needs identified by the “Food Justice” audit and community engagement. My partner and I researched case studies to address multiple dimensions of food justice: on mobile grocery trucks to increase accessibility, mixed-income community supported agriculture (CSAs) and pay-what-you-will restaurants to facilitate social interactions and address issues of affordability, and an intergeneration school community garden curriculum to build upon existing resources and again increase social capital and networks. The two case studies outlined below, Roots & Shoots and the Community Table, are located in my hometown and I selected them from first hand observations of their success and my understanding of their social context.
Roots & Shoots Intergenerational Garden
Lexington, VA is served by a single elementary school, Waddell, with a current student population K-5 of 336 (VDOE, 2013). Next to the school playground and basketball courts you will find a serious of carefully tended garden beds and a colorfully painted sign welcoming you to the Roots & Shoots Garden. The first Roots & Shoots garden was founded in 1985 in Palo Alto, CA and was the inspiration for the Blue Ridge Garden Club when they founded the
Waddell Roots & Shoots garden in 1995. Since then, schools across the country and now the UK have used Waddell’s model and curriculum to break ground on their own garden. The Roots & Shoots program creates an outdoor classroom and intergenerational garden where seniors, ‘Garden Friends,’ mentor K-5 students throughout the year. The goal of the program is to expose students to the wonders of nature, teach science standards and gardening skills, and form relationships with senior community members. Students in each grade tend a differently theme garden, i.e. herb, Peter Rabbit, sunflower, and colonial garden, supported by a highly structured science curriculum. Students and volunteers plant, weed, harvest, and play in the garden while summer school programs create a truly year round program.
Charlottesville City Schools have already made considerable progress through their partnership with the City Schoolyard Garden (CSG) program that operate gardens at all six city elementary schools. The Roots & Shoots program could be considered as a model for new gardens at the middle or high school level or to provide curricular support to the City Schoolyard Garden’s elementary school programs. All of the elementary school gardens with the exception of Buford Elementary are new this spring and therefore primed for new curriculum and program development. Charlottesville has an active Garden Club, the partner organization at Waddell, which could work with City Schoolyard Gardens to create a Roots & Shoots pilot program at one of the new elementary school gardens. JABA, the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, is another potential partner as their intergenerational programs map onto the mission of the Roots & Shoots program. The Cherry Avenue Boys & Girls Club has proven itself to be a successful partner with the Buford Garden, harvesting and maintaining the garden during the summer and after school. Other B&G clubs in the city are potential partners for the new CSG gardens and any Roots & Shoots programs. Adoption of the Roots & Shoots model
at a new or existing school garden would deepen community connections and address a need for increased intergenerational cooperation to meet food justice issues in Charlottesville.
In 2012 the Rockbridge Area Relief Association (RARA) served 14,859 individuals, which represent nearly 40% of the combined population of Rockbridge County, Lexington City, and Buena Vista city (RARA, 2013). The city of Lexington and the surrounding Rockbridge Co. encompass incredible diversity in socio-economic background. Such divides along geographic and racial, 11% of white Lexington residents live in poverty compared to 60% of black and near 100% for all other races, boundaries merit attention (City-Data, 2013). The RARA, the United Way and other community partners sought to address both issues of access and social justice through the creation of the Community Table program.
The Community Table serves a restaurant style meal free of charge each Monday night at a centralized Lexington community center. Established in March 2012, the Community Table is a non-profit partnership between the United Way, Rockbridge Area Relief Association, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and local universities and restaurants. Volunteers prepare and serve a healthy four-course meal each week in a center decorated similarly to a restaurant, but with one major different—no cash register. Patrons who are able to are asked to give a donation of $5 dollars, which covers the cost of three other meals. Mirabai McLeod, a local caterer running the Community Table kitchen emphasizes that “feeding people is a social justice issue…and they need to be fed well.” The Community Table works to address food justice issues by providing access to healthy foods with respect, dignity, and a sense of community that works to break down social barriers (The Community Table, 2013).
The Community Table could serve as a model for a similar program in Charlottesville to meet issues of access, education, and social networks. Although the city has several food banks
and soup kitchens, a Charlottesville area Community Table would address food justice needs not currently met by existing emergency food aid agencies. Not only would a Community Table program work to address issues of food insecurity, it would increase institutional capacity and strengthen a sense of community across social divides. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and United Way already operate in Charlottesville and could serve as two partner agencies to initiate a Community Table program here. Charlottesville has an abundance of talented cooks and caterers who already volunteer their time and services to organizations such as the PB&J Fund or the Haven and could also work with a Community Table program. A Charlottesville Area Community Table could be located in a single community center serviced by public transportation, or rotate between neighborhoods to increase accessibility and the reach of the program. A Community Table program here in Charlottesville would fill a currently unmet need for food justice while fostering networks and relationships across the community.
COMMUNITY PLANNING IDEAS
We have identified key community planning ideas through our work compiling the Food Justice Audit, service with partner organizations, community engagement, life history interviews, and conversations with thought leaders. They highlight community thoughts and are meant to start the conversation about food justice in Charlottesville.
Several ideas arose to bring fresh food into Belmont by facilitating food production and access. The Friends of Rives Park have already advocated for a community garden that would serve an area of Carlton with few markets or restaurants. Restructuring the comprehensive planning process to increase flexibility and ease of community input could result in more city community gardens, including one in Rives Park. Laura Brown, of Casa Alma and the Friends of Rives Park, suggested the city look to Seattle’s P-Patch Community
Garden program as a case study for future work in Charlottesville (Brown, April 4, 2013). Having perishables for sale at the BP gas station and encouraging small farm stands run by individual homeowners were ideas put forth during my partner’s thought leader interviews. Both of these ideas would require additional review of existing zoning, regulation, and incentive structures.
A common theme in my conversations with community members about food justice was that of education. The revised Charlottesville City School Wellness Policy establishes critical connections between nutrition, school lunch programs, and student success, including a recommendation for comprehensive K-10 health and nutrition instruction. Several community members brought up the addition of explicit instruction on the preparation and cooking of healthy and fresh foods. Chef Ralph Brown lauded the Piedmont Valley Community College Culinary Arts program and expressed a hope that local you will use the program as a stepping- stone to transform the Charlottesville commercial food industry (Brown, April 4, 2013). Finally, Daphne Keiser shared her collaboration with the PB&J Fund and other partners to provide dinners at school events and non-perishable food baskets for students over holidays and vacations (Keiser, April 26, 2013). Schools are important community institutions and can act as leverage points to start a community dialogue on food justice.
CLASS PLANNING IDEAS
After this semester’s class discussions, guest presenters, audit research, community interviews and service, and personal reflection we identified several class planning ideas related to food justice. Hearing Daphne Keiser describe her attempts to reach out to Charlottesville organizations, extension of services and connectivity emerged as key ideas. The creation of a ‘Food Justice Directory’ would compile all local non-profits, schools, churches, businesses, and institutions with missions related to food production, distribution,
access, and social justice. Such a directory would facilitate networking by lowering the transaction costs of advocacy. Review of case studies of school gardens and my coursework in the Curry School of Education has shaped my thoughts on Charlottesville school gardens. While the City Schoolyard Garden program has made incredible gains in the elementary schools, I think that area high schools could benefit from a garden and structured curriculum support. Many high schools have culinary arts, business, and science classes that could benefit from an operational school garden with the potential to inspire and empower local youth. Finally, after our class presentations to community members I think that a beneficial focus for a future class would be advocacy. Community engagement is essential to continuing the momentum and work of this and previous food system classes. A seminar focused on advocacy could include projects such as organized community forums or networking opportunities to transform academic exercises into tangible connections and results.
The seminar has approached the emerging concept of food justice from a number of perspectives. The completed ‘Food Justice Audit,’ interview transcripts, and community presentations will hopefully serve as a conversation starter. There are now almost five years of accumulated research on the Charlottesville food system (UVA IEN, 2013). It is now time to transform this understanding into action through advocacy and meaningful community engagement. Charlottesville has many strengths and opportunities for growth, and must now come together to define what food justice means to this community.
We are facing a system of increasing income disparity, national occurrences of contamination, political partisanship, rapidly developing technologies, global production, and disconnect between farm and plate. Food justice is a goal that allows communities to address issues of resilience, equity, and environmental quality concurrently. The road forward will not
be easy as diverse communities confront historical food systems and cerate a shared vision of the future. This semester’s work has gathered many promising ideas for the Charlottesville that merit further discussion. I have also achieved personal understanding and growth through my work in this seminar. Accordingly, I will conclude this paper with my own definition of food justice; formed through experiences in the classroom and Charlottesville community.
Food justice acknowledges and builds upon the historical relationships and interconnectedness of food systems. Food justice is any community defining their rights to produce, sell & consume food that is nutritionally & culturally appropriate, with care for the welfare of the environment, food industry workers, animals at all scales.
~ Bernice O’Brien
Restaurants, Markets, and Convenience Stores in Belmont, Charlottesville VA
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Brown, R. (April 3, 2013). Personal Correspondence: interview.
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Life History Interview
Name: Rev. Chef Ralph Brown Neighborhood: Venable, Charlottesville Gender: Male
Race: African American
Interview: 1.5 hrs, 3 April 2013, Charlottesville
Thought Leader Interviews
Name: Rev. Laura Brown
Neighborhood: Carlton, Charlottesville Interview: 1hr, 4 April 2013, Charlottesville
Name: Rev. Daphne Keiser
Neighborhood: Belmont, Charlottesville Gender: Female
Race: African American
Interview: 1 hr, 26 April 2012, Charlottesville