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As a movement for alternative means of food production and consumption has grown, so, too, have civic efforts to make alternative food accessible to low-income persons…
As a movement for alternative means of food production and consumption has grown, so, too, have civic efforts to make alternative food accessible to low-income persons (LIPs). This article examines the impact of alternative food institutions (AFIs) on low-income communities in the United States and Canada, focusing on research published since 2008.
Through a three-stage literature search, I created a database of 110 articles that make empirical or theoretical contributions to scholarly knowledge on the relationship of AFIs to low-income communities in North America. I used an in vivo coding scheme to categorize the impacts that AFIs have on LIPs and to identify predominant barriers to LIPs’ engagement with AFIs.
The impacts of AFIs span seven outcome categories: food consumption, food access and security, food skills, economic, other health, civic, and neighborhood. Economic, social and cultural barriers impede LIPs’ engagement with AFIs. AFIs can promote positive health outcomes for low-income persons when they meet criteria for affordability, convenience and inclusivity.
This review exposes productive avenues of dialogue between health scholars and medical sociology and geography/environmental sociology. Health scholarship offers empirical support for consumer-focused solutions. Conversely, by constructively critiquing the neoliberal underpinnings of AFIs’ discourse and structure, geographers and sociologists supply health scholars with a language that may enable more systemic interventions.
This article is the first to synthesize research on five categories of alternative food institutions (farmers’ markets, CSAs, community gardens, urban farms, and food cooperatives) across disciplinary boundaries.