Project Description

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.

Additional Information:

Project staff:
Paige Nuzzolillo, B.A.
Project Coordinator
(860) 278-2044 ext. 293

Project Staff:
Zulynette Morales, B.A.
Community Health Educator & Co-Coordinator

Dan Jordan, M.A.
Community Health Educator & Co-Coordinator

Heather Mosher, Ph.D.
Research Associate

Jean Schensul, Ph.D.
PAR Program Supervisor, Senior Scientist

Oluwaseyi Adeyinka
Student Intern

University of St. Joseph’s School of Pharmacy
Maria Summa, Pharm. D., R.Ph., BCPS
Faculty & Project Advisor

Increase youth awareness of issues related to food justice in the city of Hartford.
Engage youth in Participatory Action Research to collect information that will help them advocate for change in their communities.
Increase youth self-efficacy, leadership and activism skills as the basis for participation in organizing around food justice and policy advocacy for more equitable systems of food production and distribution.
Connect youth to a larger network of other young people engaged in food justice and food system work in the state of Connecticut and beyond.
Create a youth Participatory Action Research curriculum on food justice and promote its use in Hartford, throughout Connecticut and elsewhere in the U.S.
In this project, a group of eight youth from Hartford examined issues of food justice, food distribution and local food production in the city in an effort to create a more equitable food system through the methodologies of Participatory Action Research. The youth involved in this program received salaries through Capital Workforce Partner’s Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program, in conjunction with program provider, Our Piece of the Pie. The ICR Food Justice youth conducted research for five weeks to explore whether or not farmers’ markets were friendly toward teens. They were interested in identifying why farmers’ markets might or might not be open to teen engagement and how to make farmers’ markets more teen friendly. At the same time, they wanted to examine the perceived lack of youth friendly community spaces in Hartford that truly nourish youth nutritionally, creatively, emotionally and socially.
The youth utilized the following research methodologies to investigate the topic of the teen friendliness of farmers’ markets in the city: survey, pile sorting, in-depth interviewing, videography and investigative photography. The youth created and administered a survey to 72 Hartford high school students that asked questions about purchasing and eating habits as well as knowledge and opinions of farmers’ markets. Additionally, they conducted 21 interviews with a farmers’ market manager, a food safety specialist, Hartford youth, and other individuals involved in the local food system, cooking and nutrition education. The youth presented their data to a community audience at ICR on the final day of the project and facilitated a community discussion about the research results and what steps to take next.

In partnership with Hartford Food System’s Food Justice Youth Leadership group, teens will continue to utilize the results from the summer youth research institute for advocacy and social change efforts. They will also disseminate these research results and educate community members on issues of food justice. Teens will also prepare to disseminate their data to policymakers, families, community stakeholders and young adults of Hartford in the hope that their research will result in systems-level transformation in the city.
To view the Food Fight Presentation, click here