Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Francisco Dóñez

Reader 2

Char Miller

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Rights Information

© 2015 Ida B. Kassa


Though food is widely recognized as a basic necessity for humanity, disparate access to it highlights whose bodies, environments, health, nutrition, and utter existence has mattered most in American society—and whose has mattered the least. Through interviews with residents of the South Side of Chicago about the alternative food pathway they’ve forged for themselves, we learn that food becomes much more than just sustenance. Interviewees describe our present day food system as undeniably rooted in a history of enslavement and exploitation of Black and Brown bodies; they regard food justice work by communities of color as an important source of empowerment as it not only is an act of survival, but also an act of reclamation of spaces they’ve long been historically denied. For them, community gardens are safe spaces for neighbors of all ages to congregate, discuss issues happening in the neighborhood, and ultimately keep the community alive and healthy; they are transformative spaces for community building, learning, and collective healing. Residents become better stewards to the earth and to each other. Ultimately, community-led urban agriculture has the power to transform urban communities and their relationship with food, land, the environment, and each other. Ineffective public health initiatives often fail to sufficiently historicize and contextualize the relationship between social factors, unhealthy urban landscapes, and poor health outcomes. By placing the agency of the affected community at the center of research, however, we might better understand the relationship between positionality, food access, adverse health outcomes and any efforts we make to improve them.