Participatory Praxis for Community Food Security Education
AbstractCommunity 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.
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