Food Fight! Participatory Action Research for an Equitable Food System: Teen Friendly Spaces and Farmers’ Markets
Young people are especially vulnerable to the health consequences of a food insecure environment. Hartford’s youth are exposed early on to an unhealthy food environment due to gaps in availability and access to quality, nutritious, culturally-appropriate, affordable foods. This poses a challenge to the health and well-being of Hartford’s youth. For example, as reported in 2007, 51% of Hartford adults were obese, while 31.6% of children (aged 2-12) were overweight and over half of those households were food insecure (Martin & Ferris 2007). In this environment, programming to increase youth knowledge of, access to and demand for healthier, environmentally sound and ethical food is critical.
The Food Fight! Participatory Action Research program was a 6-week long intensive PAR project that encouraged youth to examine issues related to the access and availability of sustainable, fresh, culturally appropriate and nutritious foods. After group-building activities and participant observation in different sectors of the local food system, the teens in this program chose to research farmers’ markets and identify ways to make them more accessible and welcoming to teens in Hartford. They were trained in multiple research methods, including surveys, interviews, community mapping, and pilesorting, and utilized these methods to gain a fuller picture of the local food system, city farmers’ markets, and ways to make them more teen friendly. They presented their findings at a community forum, highlighted by a presentation of their video interviews and a youth-led Q+A session.