Class conscious, color-blind: Examining the dynamics of food access and the justice potential of farmers markets

Lambert-Pennington, K., & Hicks, K.

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Lambert-Pennington, K., & Hicks, K. (2016). Class conscious, color-blind: Examining the dynamics of food access and the justice potential of farmers markets. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment, 38(1), 57–66.

Alternative Food Networks , Farmers Markets , Food Access , Nutritional Benefits , Race and Class

Although often intended to address injustices in food access, farmers markets tend to cater to affluent communities, and to exclude on the basis of race and class. One means of addressing this is federal subsidy programs, like the Senior Farmers Market Nutritional Program (SFMNP). We explore the dynamics of the SFMNP program in Memphis’ farmers market landscape in 2011. We examine the visible barriers experienced by SFMNP patrons to market access including delays in establishing the program in a largely African-American neighborhood, and the more subtle barriers such as perceptions of more affluent markets as white spaces. We then explore some successful efforts to make these issues visible and address them, including activism on the part of seniors and public dialog in social media. Despite this, we find that ongoing resistance to acknowledging farmers markets as spaces of racial inequality continues to challenge their food justice potential.

Main finding
In the context of a deindustrialized, post white-flight Memphis, farmers markets are a means to deal with food deserts and lack of access to nutritional foods. However, the authors’ findings suggest that certain benefits programs didn’t address non-financial barriers to accessing farmers markets. Public conversations about benefits programs resisted talk of race and saw the program as a marker of class, thus ignoring race and class intersectionality. The case market for this study had a predominantly African-American and low-income shopper base with barriers to using the benefits programs due to a lack of approved vendors which forced senior, low income residents of color to travel out of their neighborhood to shop. At markets with approved vendors, the demand was overwhelming, and seniors had to wait in long, obtrusive lines in the heat making some feel embarrassment or segregated from the rest of the market when the vendors were clustered.

Description of method used in the article
The authors were in collaboration with local organizations who had participation in the designing and testing of the research strategy. Data collected in the evaluation period consisted of: participant observations of the South Memphis FM Advisory Committee meetings and South Memphis Farmers Market, surveys, interviews with vendors, and ethnographic observations. Analysis involved systematic coding of the data in addition to a virtual ethnography, and textual analysis of famers markets' websites and social media and media on the SFMNP programs outside of the South Memphis Farmers Market.

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Economic Transactions
Case Study
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