(Re)Visiting the Corner Store: Black Youth, Gentrification, and Food Sovereignty

  • Naya JonesEmail author


Health food access continues to be a focus of research, policy, and activism on a global scale. In the USA, healthy corner store initiatives seek to improve food access and health outcomes, with particular attention to urban, low-income neighborhoods where Black and Latinx populations reside. However, a nutritional perspective alone deflects attention from changing contexts and from the meaning of stores for residents. As cities gentrify, who will these renovated corner stores serve? Do they abet or stem displacement? How do locals “make sense” of themselves and their relationships through corner stores? These questions urge attention to corner (or convenience) retailers from a critical and relational perspective, one that addresses power dynamics such as race and racism as well as the role relationships may play. In this chapter, I visit three corner stores with African-American and Afro-Latinx youth in their gentrifying neighborhood. Their experiences in Austin, Texas illustrate demographic shifts and how corner stores can be sites of Black relationship- and self-making. I draw on Black geographies scholarship and the food sovereignty movement to underscore how relationships have already transformed local marketplaces. Throughout, I consider possibilities for research and practice that reimagine corner stores beyond food access.


Corner stores Convenience stores Black youth Food sovereignty Black geographies African-American Afro-Latino Food deserts Race and racism Gentrification 

Further Reading

  1. Grier, S., & Perry, V. (2018). Dog parks and coffeeshops: Faux diversity and consumption in gentrifying neighborhoods. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 37(1), 23–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Holt-Gimenez, E., & Harper, B. (2016). Backgrounder: Dismantling racism in the food system, 1: Winter-Spring (Report for Food First: Institute for Food Development and Policy).
  3. Jones, N. (2018). “It tastes like heaven”: Critical and embodied food pedagogy with Black youth in the Anthropocene. Policy Futures in Education.Google Scholar
  4. La Vía Campesina: International Peasants Movement (LVC).


  1. Alkon, A., & Guthman, J. (2017). The new food activism: Opposition, cooperation, and collective action. Oakland: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anguelovski, I. (2015). Healthy food stores, greenlining and food gentrification: Contesting new forms of privilege, displacement and locally unwanted land uses in racially mixed neighborhoods. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(6), 1209–1230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker, H., Jr. (2016). Intuiting archive: Notes for a post-trauma poetics. African American Review, 49(1), 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bledsoe, A. (2017). Maroonage as past and present geography in the Americas. Southeastern Geographer, 57(1), 30–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, J. (2005). Dropping anchor, setting sail: Geographies of race in Black Liverpool. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cahill, C. (2006). “At Risk”? The Fed Up Honeys Re-Present the Gentrification of the Lower East Side. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 34(1/2), 334–363.Google Scholar
  7. Cahill, C. (2018). Participatory action research. In J. J. Gieseking & W. Mangold (Eds.), The people, place, and space reader.
  8. Eaves, L. (2017). Black geographic possibilities: On a queer Black South. Southeastern Geographer, 57(1), 80–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gartin, M. (2012). Food deserts and nutritional risks in Paraguay. American Journal of Human Biology, 24(3), 296–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gordon-Nembhard, J. (2014). Collective courage: A history of African-American cooperative economic thought and practice. Philadelphia: Penn State University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Guthman, J. (2011). Weighing in: Obesity, food justice, and the limits of capitalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Harrison, R. L., Thomas, K. D., & Cross, S. N. N. (2015). Negotiating cultural ambiguity: The role of markets and consumption in multiracial identity development. Consumption Markets & Culture, 18(4), 301–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hatch, A. R. (2016). Blood sugar: Racial pharmacology and food justice in Black America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hayes-Conroy, J., & Hayes-Conroy, A. (2010). Visceral geographies: Mattering, relating, and defying. Geography Compass, 4(9), 1273–1283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jones, N. (2018). “It tastes like heaven”: Critical and embodied food pedagogy with Black youth in the Anthropocene. Policy Futures in Education.Google Scholar
  16. Kindon, S., Pain, R., & Kesby, M. (2007). Participatory action research: Origins, approaches, and methods. In S. Kindon, R. Pain, & M. Kesby (Eds.), Participatory action research approaches and methods: Connecting people, participation, and place. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kirkland, A. (2011). The environmental account of obesity: The feminist case for skepticism. Signs, 36(2), 463–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Leatherman, T. L., & Goodman, A. (2005). Coca-colonization of diets in the Yucatan. Social Science and Medicine, 61(4), 833–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lees, L., Shin, H. B., & López-Morales, E. (2014). Global gentrifications: Uneven development and displacement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Massey, D. (1994). Space, place, and gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  21. McGlotten, S. (2014). A brief and improper geography of queerspaces and sexpublics in Austin, Texas. Gender, Place & Culture, 21(4), 471–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McKittrick, K. (2006). Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of struggle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  23. McKittrick, K. (2011). On plantations, prisons, and a black sense of place. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(8), 947–963.Google Scholar
  24. McKittrick, K., & Woods, C. A. (2007). Black geographies and the politics of place. Toronto and Cambridge: Between the Lines.Google Scholar
  25. Nettles-Barcelón, K. D., Clark, G., Thorsson, C., Walker, J. K., & Williams-Forson, P., et al. (2015). Black women’s food work as critical space. Gastronomical: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 15(4), 34–49.Google Scholar
  26. Onwuachi-Willig, A. (2017). Policing the boundaries of whiteness: The tragedy of being “out of place” from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. Iowa Law Review, 102(3), 1113–1185.Google Scholar
  27. Public Science Project (PSP). (2018). Participatory action research as public science.
  28. Rahmanian, M., & Pimbert, M. (2014). Creating knowledge of food sovereignty. Nyéléni Newsletter, 18.
  29. Ramirez, J., Heredia, A., Cardoso, E., & Nolan, J. (2015). CHAMACOS youth council: Latino youth investigating environmental chemical exposures in the Salinas Valley.
  30. Ramírez, M. M. (2015). The elusive inclusive: Black food geographies and racialized food spaces. Antipode, 47(3), 748–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reese, A. M. (2018). “We will not perish; we’re going to keep flourishing”: Race, food access, and geographies of self-reliance. Antipode, 50(2), 407–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Roberts, A. R. (2017). The farmer’s improvement society and the Women’s Barnyard Auxiliary of Texas: African American community-building in the Progressive Era. Journal of Planning History, 16(3), 222–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Roberts, A. R. (2018). Interpretations & imaginaries: Toward an instrumental black planning history. Planning Theory & Practice, 19(2), 254–288.Google Scholar
  34. Sbicca, J. (2016). Food sovereignty or bust: Transforming the agrifood system is a must. In P. Godfrey & D. Torres (Eds.), Emergent possibilities for global sustainability (pp. 317–328). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Scott, T. (2016). Liberatory sustainability: Food sovereignty, survival, and sustainability at the intersections, a guide for visionaries and warrior allies. Ann Arbor, MI: Pioneers Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sustainable Food Center (SFC). (1995). Access denied: An analysis of problems facing East Austin residents in their attempts to obtain affordable, nutritious food.
  37. Tang, E., & Ren, C. (2014). Outlier: The case of Austin’s declining African American population (Report prepared for The Institute for Urban Research and Policy Analysis). University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  38. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2018). Food Access Research Atlas.
  39. Weltman-Cisneros, T. (2013). Cimarronaje cultural: Towards of counter-cartography of blackness and belonging in Mexico. Journal of Pan African Studies, 6(1), 125–139.Google Scholar
  40. Whelan, A., Wrigley, N., & Warm, D. (2002). Life in a food desert. Urban Studies, 39(11), 2083–2100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Williams-Forson, P. A. (2006). Building houses out of chicken legs: Black women, food, and power. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  42. Williams-Forson, P. A. (2011). Other women cooked for my husband: Negotiating gender, food, and identities in an African American/Ghanian household. Feminist Studies, 36(2), 435–461.Google Scholar
  43. Yes! Loitering Project. (2018).

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical College of WisconsinWauwatosaUSA

Personalised recommendations