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Literature that Guides Our Work

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The literature included on this page inspires us and guides our work as the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation in our programmatic endeavors as well as our coursework. This list is a sampling and is by no means an exhaustive list. Please reach out to Center Associate Katie Trozzo ( to suggest a book or article for us to consider.


Bringing together insights from studies of environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, critical race theory, and food studies, Cultivating Food Justice highlights the ways race and class inequalities permeate the food system, from production to distribution to consumption. The studies offered in the book explore a range of important issues, including agricultural and land use policies that systematically disadvantage Native American, African American, Latino/a, and Asian American farmers and farmworkers; access problems in both urban and rural areas; efforts to create sustainable local food systems in low-income communities of color; and future directions for the food justice movement. These diverse accounts of the relationships among food, environmentalism, justice, race, and identity will help guide efforts to achieve a just and sustainable agriculture.

Alkon, A. H. & Agyeman, J. (Eds.). (2011). Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability. Cambridge: MIT Press.

The New Food Activism explores how food activism can be pushed toward deeper and more complex engagement with social, racial, and economic justice and toward advocating for broader and more transformational shifts in the food system. Topics examined include struggles against pesticides and GMOs, efforts to improve workers’ pay and conditions throughout the food system, and ways to push food activism beyond its typical reliance on individualism, consumerism, and private property. The authors challenge and advance existing discourse on consumer trends, food movements, and the intersection of food with racial and economic inequalities.

Alkon, A., & Guthman, J. (Eds.). (2017). The new food activism: Opposition, cooperation, and collective action. Oakland: Univ. of California Press.

Adult educators know that they can no longer focus solely on the needs of learners without responsibly addressing the political andethical consequences of their work. Power in Practice examines how certain adult education programs, practices, and policies can become a subtle part of power relationships in widersociety. It provides a rich array of real-world cases that highlight the pivotal role of adult educators as 'knowledge andpower brokers' in the conflict between learners and the social forces surrounding them. The authors discuss how to teach responsibly, develop effective adult education programs, and provide exemplary leadership in complex political contexts,including the workplace and higher education. Educators in the middle of power struggles will learn how to become more politically aware while actively shaping their enterprises to meet important social needs.

Cervero, R. M., & Wilson, A. L. (2001). Power in practice: Adult education and the struggle for knowledge and power in society. John Wiley & Sons.

Arguing that 'education is freedom', Paulo Freire's radical international classic contends that traditional teaching styles keep the poor powerless by treating them as passive, silent recipients of knowledge. Grounded in Freire's own experience teaching impoverished and illiterate students in his native Brazil and over the world, this pioneering book instead suggests that through co-operation, dialogue and critical thinking, every human being can develop a sense of self and fulfil their right to be heard.

Freire, P. (1972/2017). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Is there life after capitalism? In this creatively argued follow-up to their book The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It), J. K. Gibson-Graham offer already existing alternatives to a global capitalist order and outline strategies for building alternative economies.

A Postcapitalist Politics reveals a prolific landscape of economic diversity—one that is not exclusively or predominantly capitalist—and examines the challenges and successes of alternative economic interventions. Gibson-Graham bring together political economy, feminist poststructuralism, and economic activism to foreground the ethical decisions, as opposed to structural imperatives, that construct economic “development” pathways. Marshalling empirical evidence from local economic projects and action research in the United States, Australia, and Asia, they produce a distinctive political imaginary with three intersecting moments: a politics of language, of the subject, and of collective action.

In the face of an almost universal sense of surrender to capitalist globalization, this book demonstrates that postcapitalist subjects, economies, and communities can be fostered. The authors describe a politics of possibility that can build different economies in place and over space. They urge us to confront the forces that stand in the way of economic experimentation and to explore different ways of moving from theory to action.

Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. U of Minnesota Press.

This timely book provides a critical review of the growth of alternative food networks and their struggle to defend their ethical and aesthetic values against the standardizing pressures of the corporate mainstream with its "placeless and nameless" global supply networks. It explores how these alternative movements are "making a difference" and their possible role as fears of global climate change and food insecurity intensify. It assesses the different experiences of these networks in three major arenas of food activism and politics: Britain and Western Europe, the United States, and the global Fair Trade economy. This comparative perspective runs throughout the book to fully explore the progressive erosion of the interface between alternative and mainstream food provisioning. As the era of "cheap food" draws to a close, analysis of the limitations of market-based social change and the future of alternative food economies and localist food politics place this book at the cutting-edge of the field.

Goodman, D., DuPuis, E. M., & Goodman, M. K. (2012). Alternative food networks: Knowledge, practice, and politics. New York: Routledge.

In Teaching to Transgress,bell hooks--writer, teacher, and insurgent black intellectual--writes about a new kind of education, education as the practice of freedom.  Teaching students to "transgress" against racial, sexual, and class boundaries in order to achieve the gift of freedom is, for hooks, the teacher's most important goal.

bell hooks speaks to the heart of education today: how can we rethink teaching practices in the age of multiculturalism? What do we do about teachers who do not want to teach, and students who do not want to learn? How should we deal with racism and sexism in the classroom?

Full of passion and politics, Teaching to Transgress combines a practical knowledge of the classroom with a deeply felt connection to the world of emotions and feelings.  This is the rare book about teachers and students that dares to raise questions about eros and rage, grief and reconciliation, and the future of teaching itself.

hooks, bell, (1994). Teaching to transgress. New York: Routledge.

In Teaching Community bell hooks seeks to theorize from the place of the positive, looking at what works. Writing about struggles to end racism and white supremacy, she makes the useful point that "No one is born a racist. Everyone makes a choice." Teaching Community tells us how we can choose to end racism and create a beloved community. hooks looks at many issues-among them, spirituality in the classroom, white people looking to end racism, and erotic relationships between professors and students. Spirit, struggle, service, love, the ideals of shared knowledge and shared learning - these values motivate progressive social change.

hooks, bell, (2003). Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope. New York: Routledge.

Farming While Black is the first comprehensive 'how to' guide for aspiring African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity as agriculturists and for all farmers to understand the distinct, technical contributions of African-heritage people to sustainable agriculture. At Soul Fire Farm, author Leah Penniman co-created the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion (BLFI) program as a container for new farmers to share growing skills in a culturally relevant and supportive environment led by people of color. Farming While Black organizes and expands upon the curriculum of the BLFI to provide readers with a concise guide to all aspects of small-scale farming, from business planning to preserving the harvest. Throughout the chapters Penniman uplifts the wisdom of the African diasporic farmers and activists whose work informs the techniques described—from whole farm planning, soil fertility, seed selection, and agroecology, to using whole foods in culturally appropriate recipes, sharing stories of ancestors, and tools for healing from the trauma associated with slavery and economic exploitation on the land. Woven throughout the book is the story of Soul Fire Farm, a national leader in the food justice movement.

Penniman, L. (2018). Farming while black: Soul fire farm's practical guide to liberation on the land. Chelsea Green Publishing.

In this book, Ashanté M. Reese makes clear the structural forces that determine food access in urban areas, highlighting Black residents’ navigation of and resistance to unequal food distribution systems. Linking these local food issues to the national problem of systemic racism, Reese examines the history of the majority-Black Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Reese not only documents racism and residential segregation in the nation’s capital but also tracks the ways transnational food corporations have shaped food availability. By connecting community members’ stories to the larger issues of racism and gentrification, Reese shows there are hundreds of Deanwoods across the country.

Reese’s geographies of self-reliance offer an alternative to models that depict Black residents as lacking agency, demonstrating how an ethnographically grounded study can locate and amplify nuances in how Black life unfolds within the context of unequal food access.

Reese, A. M. (2019). Black food geographies: Race, self-reliance, and food access in Washington, DC. UNC Press Books.

This edited volume explores the intersection of learning and food, both within and beyond the classroom, all within the context of sustainability.  Taking a broad pedagogical approach to the question of food, it focuses on learning and change in a number of key sites including schools, homes, communities, and social movements, keeping in mind that we need to learn our way out of our current unsustainable food system and in to more sustainable alternatives. 

Sumner, J. (2016). Learning, Food, and Sustainability. Palgrave Macmillan.

In May 1967, internationally renowned activist Fannie Lou Hamer purchased forty acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, launching the Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC). A community-based rural and economic development project, FFC would grow to over 600 acres, offering a means for local sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestic workers to pursue community wellness, self-reliance, and political resistance. Life on the cooperative farm presented an alternative to the second wave of northern migration by African Americans--an opportunity to stay in the South, live off the land, and create a healthy community based upon building an alternative food system as a cooperative and collective effort.

Freedom Farmers expands the historical narrative of the black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern black farmers and the organizations they formed. Whereas existing scholarship generally views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of black people, this book reveals agriculture as a site of resistance and provides a historical foundation that adds meaning and context to current conversations around the resurgence of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

White, M. M. 2018. Freedom Fighters: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Articles and Chapters

The  spectrum of those working towards community food security is culturally and geographically diverse, spanning a broad range of people, places and activities. Organizations and individuals working in the food system and building food secure communities create complex relationships and inter-related activities.

For example, an urban farmers’ market may also house a job-skills program that trains young mothers to teach cooking skills. At the close of the market, gleaners come by to pick up extra produce for the food bank, while a local composter gathers food waste to be recycled. Farmers at the market may also run a cooperative distribution site for local restaurants and institutions like schools and hospitals, as well as hold a seat on the local food policy council that helps define priorities for the area’s food system development. Complex relationships and connections such as these are at the heart of building whole communities. Because of their intricacy , however, they can also be difficult to measure.

Over the past eight years, Community Food Project grantees have expressed interest in finding ways to communicate the story of their work. In addition to counting the number of pounds produced, partners engaged, youth trained, and other specific outputs, grantees are interested in sharing the importance of the connections between these outputs, the impacts of the relationships cultivated, the reinforce- ment of underlying values, and the ways in which respect was communicated. 

Whole Measures for Community Food Systems is designed to give organizations and communities a collaborative process for defining and expressing their complex stories and the multiple outcomes that emerge from their work. 

Abi-Nader, J. A., A., Harris, K., Herra, H. Eddings, D., Habib, D., Hanna, J., Paterson, C., Sutton, K., Villanuesva, L. (2009). Whole measures for community food systems: Value-based planning and evaluation. In C. F. S. Coalition (Ed.). Portland, OR.

Abstract: Despite much popular interest in food issues, there remains a lack of social justice in the American agrifood system, as evidenced by prevalent hunger and obesity in low-income populations and exploitation of farmworkers. While many consumers and alternative agrifood organizations express interest in and support social justice goals, the incorporation of these goals into on-the-ground alternatives is often tenuous. Academics have an important role in calling out social justice issues and developing the critical thinking skills that can redress inequality in the agrifood system. Academics can challenge ideological categories of inquiry and problem definition, include justice factors in defining research problems, and develop participatory, problem-solving research within social justice movements. In addition, scholars can educate students about the power of epistemologies, discourse, and ideology, thereby expanding the limits and boundaries of what is possible in transforming the agrifood system. In these ways, the academy can be a key player in the creation of a diverse agrifood movement that embraces the discourse of social justice

Allen, P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: Perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values, 25(2), 157-161.

Summary: In this piece, Brookfield introduces the concept of critically reflective practice wherin practitioners  reject the idea that "the core of any communication is a shared, universal meaning just  waiting to be unearthed" (p. 34). In critically reflective practice, Brookfield explains, practitioners are attentive to the "context-specific features of their learners, their communities, and their own practices" (p. 34). In this chapter, Brookfield examines the contested meanings of  critical reflection and the four traditions of criticality before defining critically reflective practice in his own terms and explaining how adult educators may "engage in a critically reflective analysis of taken-for-granted assumptions about practice" (p. 38). He also addresses the contradictory nature of critically reflective practice in that it "blends contradictory objectivist and subjectivist understandings of knowledge" (p. 39) and reflects on the ways in which this approach may uncover implicit dynamics of power within learning environments, in part, through the recognition of hegemonic assumptions. He explores critiques and challenges to critically reflective practice before presenting what he terms "the democratic, emancipatory promise" (p. 47) of critical reflection in that a critically reflective stance "encourages more inclusive, collaborative, and democratic forms of adult education" (p. 47) and promotes distrust of "grand theories and grand narratives of what 'good' adult education looks like" (p. 47) by allowing practitioners to "realize the contextuality of all practice and the limitations of universal templates" (p. 47) for educational practice. 

Brookfield, S.D. (2000). The concept of critically reflective practice. In A.L. Wilson and E.R. Hayes (eds.), Handbook of adult and continuing education. (pp. 33-49). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Abstract: Under the banner of food justice, the last few years has seen a profusion of projects focused on selling, donating, bringing or growing fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods inhabited by African Americans – often at below market prices – or educating them to the quality of locally grown, seasonal, and organic food. The focus of this article is the subjects of such projects – those who enroll in such projects ‘to bring good food to others,’ in this case undergraduate majors in Community Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz who do six-month field studies with such organizations. Drawing on formal and informal communications with me, I show that they are hailed by a set of discourses that reflect whitened cultural histories, such as the value of putting one’s hands in the soil. I show their disappointments when they find these projects lack resonance in the communities in which they are located. I then show how many come to see that current activism reflects white desires more than those of the communities they putatively serve. In this way, the article provides insight into the production and reproduction of whiteness in the alternative food movement, and how it might be disrupted. I conclude that more attention to the cultural politics of alternative food might enable whites to be more effective allies in anti-racist struggles.

Guthman, J. (2008). Bringing good food to others: Investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies, 15(4), 431-447.

Abstract: While community development is always full of issues, there are new and perhaps more perplexing sets of tensions and dilemmas facing community development practitioners at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This paper begins by noting the range of contradictions and dilemmas facing those in community development today. It then draws on research into the operating frameworks that set the backdrop for much current community development activity in formal and semi-formal organisations. It notes the inconsistencies and consistencies between different operating frameworks and the pressure points and dilemmas for community development practitioners. The final sections of the paper deal with the issue of how to respond to the new discourses that have fused community and enterprise lexicon, and what the new constellation of operating frameworks and discourses can mean for activism in community development today.

Kenny, S. (2002) Tensions and dilemmas in community development: New discourses, new Trojans? Community Development Journal, 37(4), 284–299.

Summary: In the introductory chapter of Catalyzing change: Profiles of Cornell Cooperative Extension educators from Greene, Tompkins, and Erie Counties, New York (2006), Peters discusses the enduring purpose of Extension education as a "non-neutral force for change" (p. 16). In this view, "Extension education is not only or mainly about providing information and answering questions, but catalyzing change" (p. 16). This introduction reflects on the narratives given by a handful of Cornell Cooperative Extension agents who see their role as moving beyond the neutral one-way provision of information. With excerpts from the narratives and from a collective reflection session with Extension agents, this chapter examines the ways that the educators view their own role as community change agents as well as the significance and implications of the ways they conceptualize their role. Peters focuses in on the  agents' perceptions of their roles in "[facilitating] sustainable development, [increasing] people's respect and reverence for life, and [building] local democracy" (p. 19) as well as the "public significance" (p. 31) of their work and implications for a community-engaged and critically refective Extension practice.

Peters, S. (2006). It’s not just providing information: Perspectives on the purposes and significance of extension work. In S. Peters, D.O’Connell, T. Alter, & A.Jack (eds.), Catalyzing change: Profiles of Cornell Cooperative Extension educators from Greene, Tompkins, and Erie Counties, New York. (pp. 13-32). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.

Abstract: Drawing from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Washington, DC, this article outlines geographies of self‐reliance; a theoretical framework for understanding black food geographies that are embedded in histories of self‐reliance as a response to structural inequalities. Using a community garden as a case study, I argue that the garden functions as a site for addressing several manifestations of structural violence: racist and classist depictions of low‐income and working class people, joblessness, gentrification, and youth underdevelopment. Drawing on self‐reliance ideologies as well as collective and personal histories, the residents exhibit a form of agency that demonstrates unwavering hope in the sustainability of their shared community. Through this analysis, I show that self‐reliance functions as a mechanism through which residents navigate spatial inequalities.

Reese, A. M. (2018). “We will not perish; we’re going to keep flourishing”: Race, Food Access, and Geographies of Self‐Reliance. Antipode, 50(2), 407-424.

Abstract: The paper demonstrates how whiteness is produced in progressive non-profit efforts to promote sustainable farming and food security in the US. I explore whiteness by addressing the spatial dimensions of this food politics. I draw on feminist and materialist theories of nature, space and difference as well as research conducted between 2003 and the present. Whiteness emerges spatially in efforts to increase food access, support farmers and provide organic food to consumers. It clusters and expands through resource allocation to particular organizations and programs and through participation in non-profit conferences. Community food’s discourse builds on a late-modern and, in practice, ‘white’ combination of science and ideology concerning healthful food and healthy bodies. Whiteness in alternative food efforts rests, as well, on inequalities of wealth that serve both to enable different food economies and to separate people by their ability to consume. It is latent in the support of romanticized notions of community, but also in the more active support for coalition-building across social differences. These well-intentioned food practices reveal both the transformative potential of progressive whiteness and its capacity to become exclusionary in spite of itself. Whiteness coheres precisely, therefore, in the act of ‘doing good’.

Slocum, R. (2007). Whiteness, space and alternative food practice. Geoforum, 38(3), 520-533.

Abstract: Whiteness enables the coherence of an alliance organized to promote community food security and sustainable farming. This unnamed presence shapes a discourse identifying the focus of struggle as well as resource allocation, conference form and content, listserv discussions, staffing and programming. Unacknowledged white privilege gives the lie to the movement's rhetoric of justice, good intentions and sustainability. And yet it is clear that racism is an organizing process in the food system: people of color disproportionately experience food insecurity, lose their farms and face the dangerous work of food processing and agricultural labor. Critical analyses of social movements argue that a failure to confront difference undermines progressive change efforts. The paper provides evidence of how the community food movement reproduces white privilege and proposes ways it might engage with anti-racism.

Slocum, R. (2006). Anti-racist Practice and the Work of Community Food Organizations. Antipode 38(2): 327–349.

Abstract: Our goal in this article is to remind readers what is unsettling about decolonization. Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. The easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to “decolonize our schools,” or use “decolonizing methods,” or, “decolonize student thinking”, turns decolonization into a metaphor. As important as their goals may be, social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches that decenter settler perspectives have objectives that may be incommensurable with decolonization. Because settler colonialism is built upon an entangled triad structure of settler-native-slave, the decolonial desires of white, nonwhite, immigrant, postcolonial, and oppressed people, can similarly be entangled in resettlement, reoccupation, and reinhabitation that actually further settler colonialism. The metaphorization of decolonization makes possible a set of evasions, or “settler moves to innocence”, that problematically attempt to reconcile settler guilt and complicity, and rescue settler futurity. In this article, we analyze multiple settler moves towards innocence in order to forward “an ethic of incommensurability” that recognizes what is distinct and what is sovereign for project(s) of decolonization in relation to human and civil rights based social justice projects. We also point to unsettling themes within transnational/Third World decolonizations, abolition, and critical spaceplace pedagogies, which challenge the coalescence of social justice endeavors, making room for more meaningful potential alliances.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, education & society, 1(1).

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