Home Volume 2, Issue 4 Demystifying the Local: Considerations for Higher Education Engagement with Community Food Systems


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Demystifying the Local: Considerations for Higher Education Engagement with Community Food Systems

by Howard Rosinga

http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2012.024.005, pp. 79–84

Published online 15 August 2012



Many universities and colleges have started to channel resources toward understanding and supporting small-scale food systems development in low-income communities. These efforts are often embedded into institutional sustainability initiatives that incorporate new curricula, research agendas, and community engagement. Students, staff, and faculty increasingly engage in community-based research, service-learning opportunities, internships, practicum and/or pro bono technical assistance in support of local food projects. These forms of engagement frequently operate in urban sectors where access to fresh food is challenged, for example, by historical patterns of racial segregation and social exclusion. Drawing on insights from ongoing anthropological research in Chicago on the role of higher education institutions in supporting community food systems development, this commentary presents a short set of considerations for higher education institutions that engage in local food projects within low-income communities. The author suggests that prior to such engagement, academics more fully comprehend how communities perceive local and alternative food initiatives, and that higher education institutions formulate outreach initiatives that embed food systems development within a community development and social justice framework.


Keywords: community food systems, food deserts, community engagement, higher education



a Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning; DePaul University; 2233 North Kenmore, Chicago, Illinois 60614 USA: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.


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