“What we raise ourselves”

Growing food sovereignty in the Mississippi Delta


  • Emily A. Holmes Christian Brothers University
  • Mary F. Campbell Christian Brothers University
  • Ryan Betz




Food Sovereignty, Mississippi Delta, School Gardens, Food Justice, Farm-to-School, Community Food Systems


This paper employs the concept of food sover­eignty, as conceived by La Via Campesina and developed by First Nations in North America and peasant farmer groups around the world, as a lens to assess the level of local control over the produc­tion, distribution, and consumption of food in the Mississippi Delta. We present research conducted through site visits, participant observation, focus groups, and surveys of communities affiliated with the Delta EATS public school garden program cur­rently operating in three Mississippi public elemen­tary schools. Our findings demonstrate low levels of food sovereignty but high levels of agency and ingenuity in accessing and obtaining desired foods, along with abundant interest in preserving and passing on traditional foodways. Community mem­bers express the desire to exert greater local control over food production, distribution, and consump­tion through community gardens, farmers markets, and cooking and food preservation classes. While food sovereignty is constrained by the current agri-food system of the Delta, programs such as Delta EATS and farmers cooperatives are enhancing local food sovereignty through farm-to-school programs that strengthen relationships between farmers and the community.


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Author Biographies

Emily A. Holmes, Christian Brothers University

Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy

Mary F. Campbell, Christian Brothers University

Associate Professor, Department of Behavioral Sciences

Ryan Betz

Independent scholar; former Program Manager, Delta EATS, Delta Health Alliance; Stoneville, Mississippi



How to Cite

Holmes, E., Campbell, M., & Betz, R. (2022). “What we raise ourselves”: Growing food sovereignty in the Mississippi Delta. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(2), 285–299. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.112.019