Participatory Praxis for Community Food Security Education

  • Kim Niewolny Virginia Tech
  • Michelle S. Schroeder-Moreno North Carolina State University
  • Garland Mason Virginia Tech
  • Amanda McWhirt University of Arkansas
  • Susan Clark Virginia Tech
Keywords: Action Research, Community Food Security, Critical Pedagogy, Curriculum, Food Systems, Participatory Education


Community food security (CFS) has a robust history as a social movement addressing the politics and practice of food access and availability. While CFS advocacy and policy activity are closely connected to grassroots efforts, the academic community has supported CFS goals in a number of ways. CFS intersects with similar food movements, such as food sovereignty, emphasizing a social justice agenda for achieving democratic social change in the food system. In our paper, we illustrate the teaching of CFS in higher education at the graduate level where masters, professional, and doctoral students seek programmatic and community-based research experiences rooted in the goals of food justice, health equity, and ecological sustainability. Drawing upon a partici­patory education and critical pedagogy philosophy, we describe our approach and outcomes in developing a graduate course centered on CFS with two institutions and stakeholder participation in central Appalachia. An interdisciplinary approach was taken using a food justice lens, with special attention given to rurality, race, and class as issues informing CFS work in the region. We illustrate how course themes, assignments, and community engagement aims were collectively developed by students, faculty, and community practitioners through the Appalachian Foodshed Project, a regional CFS project. We focus our insights learned through several processes: developing and offering a pilot course in food systems; conducting focus groups with graduate students from two institu­tions; and collecting course evaluations from the final CFS course we developed. Our paper con­cludes with suggestions for utilizing a participatory approach—as praxis—to create new opportunities for students, faculty, and CFS practitioners to learn together for food systems change.

Author Biographies

Kim Niewolny, Virginia Tech
Department of Agri­cultural, Leadership, & Community Education, Virginia Tech; 282 Litton-Reaves Hall; Blacksburg, VA 24601
Michelle S. Schroeder-Moreno, North Carolina State University
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, North Carolina State University, 2406 Williams Hall, Raleigh, NC 27695
Garland Mason, Virginia Tech
Department of Agricultural, Leadership, & Community Education, Virginia Tech; Blacksburg, VA 24601
Amanda McWhirt, University of Arkansas
Department of Horticulture, University of Arkansas, 2301 S. University Ave, Little Rock, AR 72204
Susan Clark, Virginia Tech
Department of Horticulture, Virginia Tech; 401-F Saunders Hall; Blacksburg, VA 24061
How to Cite
Niewolny, K., Schroeder-Moreno, M., Mason, G., McWhirt, A., & Clark, S. (2017). Participatory Praxis for Community Food Security Education. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 7(4), 105-128.

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