Forging Links Between Food Chain Labor Activists and Academics


  • Charles Z. Levoke Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Nathan McClintock Portland State University
  • Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern Syracuse University
  • Amy K. Coplen Portland State University
  • Jennifer Gaddis University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Joann Lo Food Chain Workers Alliance
  • Felipe Tendick-Matesanz Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
  • Anelyse M. Weiler University of Toronto



Academic, Activist, Community-Engaged Scholarship, Food Movements, Food Justice, Food Systems, Food Workers, Labor, Teaching


Interest in food movements has been growing dramatically, but until recently there has been limited engagement with the challenges facing workers across the food system. Of the studies that do exist, there is little focus on the processes and relationships that lead to solutions. This article explores ways that community-engaged teaching and research partnerships can help to build meaningful justice with food workers. The text builds on a special roundtable session held at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Chicago in April 2015, which involved a range of academic scholars and community-based activists. We present these insights through a discussion of key perspectives on collaborative research and teaching and learning as food-labor scholar-activists. We argue that despite significant gaps in the way that food movements are addressing labor issues, community-campus collaborations present an opportunity for building alliances to foster food justice. Building on our collective analysis and reflection, we point to five recommendations for fostering collaboration: connecting to personal experience; building trust; developing common strategies; building on previous community efforts; and, appreciating power differences and reciprocating accordingly. We conclude with some final thoughts on future research directions.

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Author Biographies

Charles Z. Levoke, Wilfrid Laurier University

Department of Geography, Wilfrid Laurier University; 75 University Avenue West; Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3C5 Canada.

Nathan McClintock, Portland State University

Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning, Portland State University; P.O. Box 751; Portland, Oregon 97207 USA.

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Syracuse University

Department of Public Health, Food Studies, and Nutrition, Syracuse University; 544 White Hall; Syracuse, New York 13244 USA.

Amy K. Coplen, Portland State University

Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning, Portland State University; P.O. Box 751; Portland, Oregon 97207 USA.

Jennifer Gaddis, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of Civil Society and Community Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison; 4251 Nancy Nicholas Hall; 1300 Linden Drive; Madison, Wisconsin 53706 USA.

Joann Lo, Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food Chain Workers Alliance; 1730 West Olympic Boulevard #300 Room K; Los Angeles, California 90015 USA.

Felipe Tendick-Matesanz, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United; 77 West Washington Street; Chicago, Illinois 60602 USA.

Anelyse M. Weiler, University of Toronto

Department of Sociology, University of Toronto; 725 Spadina Avenue; Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2J4 Canada.



How to Cite

Levoke, C. Z., McClintock, N., Minkoff-Zern, L.-A., Coplen, A. K., Gaddis, J., Lo, J., Tendick-Matesanz, F., & Weiler, A. M. (2016). Forging Links Between Food Chain Labor Activists and Academics. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6(2), 129–142.



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