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April 9, 2021

Professor Promotes Food Justice Through Research


Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Zulfiya Tursunova published an article on The Origins of Food Sovereignty and Pathways towards food sovereignty, "Reconnecting individuals, food, nature and community in the inner city in Winnipeg, Manitoba," in the high-impact peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Urban Research.

The article provides a case study of food sovereignty in a low-income neighborhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Discussions focus on peoples' relationships to food and the impact of West Broadway Community Organization (WBCO) food programming through the Good Food Club, cooking classes, and gardening initiatives.

Zulfiya, the principal researcher, collaborated with community members in West Broadway. Community members of diverse backgrounds such as newcomers, Canadian born population, and Indigenous peoples described many challenges in accessing healthy food, which negatively impacted their food sovereignty. From the interviews, many participants shared how they frequently chose the cheaper and more accessible junk food, fast food, and processed food over healthy food. One woman reports, “It seems like junk [food] is cheaper than healthy food, so I buy more of it.”

Some participants stated that their traditional foods were difficult to find. Several participants chose their food on affordability and availability. Few of the participants have the funds to purchase their preferred foods. Many participants were able to list many fast food places that were available within the community. However, when asked where they would have to find certain foods to make a meal, this often required planning and travel.

Despite the various challenges that West Broadway community members face, the community has coping mechanisms to pursue paths toward food sovereignty. Community members with diverse cultural backgrounds reported coming together to adopt practices toward food sovereignty in their urban environment of West Broadway. This action is in response to the lack of access to healthy food choices in their neighborhood but also to build community and agency. 

Such WBCO programs as the community gardens, farmer's markets, and local farm field trips have positively impacted the citizens of West Broadway. Community spirit is forming in a community that only years earlier was known more for violence and crime. Many participants made positive comments about grassroots initiatives and advocated for more community gardens. This small community is coming together to create better food choices. For example, by establishing community gardens, residents seek to localize food systems and access to healthy foods, and with regular visits to family farms relationships between consumers and food producers are created.

Zulfiya was also invited by Guilford's Food Justice Club to give a talk on the role of food justice in the pandemic. She focused on intersectional framework of racial justice and food justice, stressing the need to support communities of color in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina.

Furthermore, Zulfiya argued that special food programming is needed for undocumented citizens given that 96 percent are food-insecure. Hispanic children and their families are less likely to receive help from SNAP compared with non-Hispanic white or African-American children, according to reports from Feeding America. As a member of the Piedmont Triad Regional Food Council, Zulfiya suggests that specific programming should be inclusive of all community members, embracing diversity and democracy.