We Built It and They Did Not Come: Using New Governance Theory in the Fight for Food Justice in Low-Income Communities of Color
Seattle Journal for Social Justice, Forthcoming
26 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 17, 2017
Food deserts and food insecurity have received considerable attention from various stakeholders, such as state and local governments, community organizations, and private sector institutions. These stakeholders have sought to overcome food insecurity by turning food deserts into oases by providing “access” to fresh, healthy food. However, many of their solutions—building supermarkets and sponsoring farmers markets—have missed the mark. Residents of food deserts did not flock to grocery stores to purchase fruits and vegetables. As a result, many stakeholders blame the residents of food deserts for their own predicament, lamenting, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, “we built it but they did not come.”
We proffer an alternative to blaming the victims. We consider that the problem is not simply that they did not come. Perhaps “we” made incorrect assumptions about the barriers to accessing healthy food? Thus by neglecting the full extent of the problem, “we” failed to provide meaningful access. In this Essay, we argue that interventions failed because we used a top-down approach that implicitly and/or unwittingly embraced a myopic narrative of food access that centered around problems of proximity. We then introduce the use of “new governance” theory to contemplate what a more collaborative and inclusive framework would look like.
Keywords: Food, Race, Food Justice, Food Deserts
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