Incorporating local foods into low-income families’ home-cooking practices

The critical role of sustained economic subsidies




Community-Based Participatory Research, Home Cooking, Community Nutrition Programs, Food Insecurity, Community Supported Agriculture, Local Food, Low-Income Families, Photovoice, Social Practice Theory


Alternative food practices, including farmers markets and CSAs, are often inaccessible to low-income families. Subsidized CSAs and fruit and vegetable prescription programs have the potential to decrease food insecurity, increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, and generate better health outcomes. However, several challenges can limit the success of such programs, including the logis­tics of distribution and an inability to cook from scratch due to a lack of kitchen infrastructure, time, or skills. In this paper, we investigate two diet-related health programs conducted with commu­nity partners in Madison, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon. We used photovoice to evaluate and enhance these programs, which supplied low-income participants with free or subsidized weekly shares of local food, addressed transportation bar­riers associated with access, and offered recipes and cooking education. Drawing on social practice theory, we demonstrate how these programs altered food provisioning practices for low-income individuals and families by building their compe­tence in the kitchen, fostering meaningful social relationships, and cultivating new meanings related to fresh, local food. The short-term gains were positive, and such community-based nutrition pro­grams warrant continued support as part of a broader strategy to address poverty and food insecurity.


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Author Biographies

Jennifer E. Gaddis, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Department of Civil Society and Community Studies

Amy K. Coplen, Portland State University

Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning

Molly Clark-Barol, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Departments of Sociology and Civil Society and Community Studies

Claire K. Barrett, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of Civil Society and Community Studies



How to Cite

Gaddis, J., Coplen, A., Clark-Barol, M., Martin, A., Barrett, C., & Lubowicki, L. (2020). Incorporating local foods into low-income families’ home-cooking practices: The critical role of sustained economic subsidies. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(1), 117–132.

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