Community Food Systems: Strengthening the Research-to-Practice Continuum
Growing public interest in links between food, health, and the environment has sparked exponential growth in local and regional food system projects. Along with local experimentation has come an accompanying surge in related academic research. Are we learning what we need to know to expand the impact of the work? This paper introduces a new community food systems bibliography as a tool to help build usable knowledge. Drawing on a set of literature reviews prepared by students in a University of California Davis graduate seminar,* we illustrate how the bibliography can facilitate literature scans to begin to identify persistent and strategic challenges facing community food system practitioners. Our analysis of the student reviews finds three interrelated challenges: (1) an economic challenge rooted in the difficulty of finding price points that work for farmers while ensuring that low-income consumers have access to healthy food and food system workers have decent wages and benefits; (2) a social challenge to confront racial and class bias while forging practical solutions; and (3) a political challenge of reconciling "insider" and "outsider" strategies, the former emphasizing incremental reform and the latter systemic change. These challenges resist simple solutions, but progress can be made if researchers and practitioners join forces. We discuss the potential for conceptual frameworks drawn from the applied fields of community development and public policy to inform the needed dialog between theory and practice.
* All the bibliography files, including updates, are available at http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/sfs/CFSresources
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