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About Food Dignity

The name of this project–Food Dignity–aims to convey both a statement of values and a hypothesis. The ethical stance is that human and community agency in food systems is an end in itself. Our hypothesis is that expanding such agency, especially within communities dealing with food insecurity, will improve the sustainability and equity of our local food systems and economies.


Food justice community-based organizations (CBOs) in the US work at the front lines to increase community power in reshaping local food systems to nourish us all now and our grandchildren in the future. Five such CBOs agreed to collaborate in the Food Dignity project to deepen their investments in that work and, with academic partners, to co-investigate and document their work to share and learn more about how communities do, can and should work to create sustainable, equitable and food secure community food systems.


With nearly $5 million from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (AFRI Competitive Grant no. 2011-68004-30074) nine organizations collaborated over five funded years and two “no-cost extension” years, from 2011-2018, on research, action and education.  The partnering organizations were Blue Mountain Associates, Dig Deep Farms, East New York Farms!, Feeding Laramie Valley, Whole Community Project, University of Wyoming, Cornell University, Ithaca College, and University of California Davis. (See the Investigative Team.)


The research was largely via case studies about how communities work to create more sustainability, equity, and food security through food system work. Our secondary research question was about means for creating more equitable community-university collaborations in research, action and education. We learned about both by doing. For the first question, we relied upon the collective decades of expertise and experience the five community-based organizations (CBOs) brought to the table. Also, we traced the CBOs’ work and Food Dignity subaward investments during our five years of collaboration. For the second question, we were striving for such relations in our own collaborations.  (See Results.)


The five CBOs led the action, or extension, components by further investing in activities such as funding citizen action with minigrants, supporting leadership development, and investing in food production, processing, marketing and sharing. (See Communities Remaking Food Systems and Results.)


The education work included developing new food system courses and undergraduate minors at Cornell and University of Wyoming, as well as community-university collaborations on those minors and in student internships programs. We also supported five master students and partially supported three PhD students. (See Academics and Learning Guides.)

We invite you explore our paths and destinations in the journey we called Food Dignity: Action research on engaging food insecure communities and universities in building sustainable community food systems.

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