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Extension of What and to Whom? A Qualitative Study of Self-Provisioning Service Delivery in a University Extension Program

Food Systems and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78635-092-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-091-6

Publication date: 29 June 2017



Research has established a connection between industrially-produced food and negative health outcomes. Scholars have also shown a significant link between poor food environments and health. This paper explores the experiences of university extension program agents in order to initiate greater dialogue about the role of extension in lessening the deleterious health impacts of unequal access to high quality and sufficient quantity foods. Specifically, we consider the role of food self-provisioning instruction (e.g., food gardening, preservation).


The paper draws on semi-structured interviews with 20 university extension program officers in the state of Washington.


Although our participants report that demand for education in food production skills is on the rise across Washington, there are barriers to the equitable distribution of self-provisioning skills.

Practical implications

There is considerable promise for extension programs to have positive implications for health and nutrition for communities struggling to access quality foods. To meet this progress, extension must be more aware of serving the entire public either through hiring agents mirror their constituencies or funding a more diverse array of programming.


Little existing research examines or evaluates using university extension programs as a vehicle for teaching food self-production, though these topics have been taught since the founding of extension.



Colby, A. and Kennedy, E.H. (2017), "Extension of What and to Whom? A Qualitative Study of Self-Provisioning Service Delivery in a University Extension Program", Food Systems and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 177-198.



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