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Food Access in Brownsville, Brooklyn: Environmental Justice Meets Biopower

Kornfeld, Dory Alexandra Rose

Food access has become a popular area of concern in both urban planning and public health as both fields are directing increasing attention to the role that uneven neighbourhood food environments play in diet practices and health outcomes. This research investigates two food access expansion projects underway in New York City by looking at how they are implemented in the neighbourhood of Brownsville in the borough of Brooklyn. One, the Brownsville Youthmarket, run by the city-wide nonprofit GrowNYC, is a farmers' market intervention that increases access to fresh fruit and vegetables by hiring neighbourhood youth to sell regional produce. The second, Shop Healthy, is an initiative run by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (and its District Public Health Offices). It encourages bodega owners to stock healthier items in their stores, including fruits and vegetables. By drawing on concepts of environmental justice and biopower, this research shows how these programs are characterized by competing motivations and strategies. While the stated rationale for these food access programs is to improve food environments by bringing more healthy items into underserved neighbourhoods, they rely upon nutrition education and cooking skills programs that indicate that the underlying problem is a lack of knowledge about what food is healthy and how to prepare it. This gap between motivations and strategies reveals a great distance between city-level actors and the residents of the neighbourhoods that they aim to help. Program designers fail to understand the true barriers to healthy eating in predominantly poor and minority communities and thus intervene with programs that do little to meaningfully change the food environment in ways that address residents' needs.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Beauregard, Robert A.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2015
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