Community Food Work as Critical Practice: A Faith-Based Perspective through Narratives

  • Rebecca Ligrani Virginia Polytechnic and State University
  • Kim Niewolny Virginia Polytechnic and State University
Keywords: Community Food Work, Critical Consciousness, Faith-Based Organization, Food Security, Narrative Inquiry, Whole Measures for Community Food Systems

Abstract

Community food work is a framework for under­standing the interconnections and complexities of food systems issues such as farm sustainability, food access and health equity, environmental resiliency, and social justice. An emerging yet overlooked perspective of community food work is the role of faith-based organizations and practition­ers. In this single case study of six faith-based practitioners focused on urban food security in Virginia, we use narrative inquiry to explore how they understand and perform their community food work from a faith-based and social justice context. Our methods included interviewing each practitioner to create stories of their everyday work, researcher-participant analysis of those stories, and a collective reflection session of the group’s narratives. The final narratives not only point toward specific social justice values and practices aimed at addressing race and class ineq­uity in the food system as significant elements of their community food work, but also created new space for practitioner reflection and discovery of the way white privilege and class-based assump­tions can be uncovered and challenged in the work itself. In this way, the research describes what community food work looks like through a faith-based lens, while also showing how storytelling and narratives can be used as an approach to create possibility for critical reflection about power and privilege in our everyday practice. We conclude with suggestions for using storytelling and narrative inquiry in similar food system contexts as a strategy for community change.

Author Biographies

Rebecca Ligrani, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
Department of Agricultural Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
Kim Niewolny, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
Department of Agricultural Leadership and Community Education, Virginia Polytechnic and State University; 282 Litton Reaves Hall; Blacksburg, VA 24060
Published
2017-09-26