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Food sovereignty, urban food access, and food activism: contemplating the connections through examples from Chicago

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The idea of food sovereignty has its roots primarily in the response of small producers in developing countries to decreasing levels of control over land, production practices, and food access. While the concerns of urban Chicagoans struggling with low food access may seem far from these issues, the authors believe that the ideas associated with food sovereignty will lead to the construction of solutions to what is often called the “food desert” issue that serve and empower communities in ways that less democratic solutions do not. In Chicago and elsewhere, residents and activists often see and experience racial and economic inequalities through the variety of stores and other food access sites available in their community. The connections between food access, respect, and activism are first considered through a set of statements of Chicagoans living in food access poor areas. We will then discuss these connections through the work and philosophy of activists in Chicago centered in food sovereignty and food justice. Particular focus will be placed on Growing Power, an urban food production, distribution, and learning organization working primarily in Milwaukee and Chicago, and Healthy South Chicago, a community coalition focused on health issues in a working class area of the city.

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Correspondence to Daniel R. Block.

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Block, D.R., Chávez, N., Allen, E. et al. Food sovereignty, urban food access, and food activism: contemplating the connections through examples from Chicago. Agric Hum Values 29, 203–215 (2012).

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