Black Food Geographies

In Black Food Geographies, the author conducts research on the individual lives and community structure in the residential area of Deanwood, located in Washington, DC, to investigate how the historically black neighborhood navigates food inequality. She breaks her report into five chapters which focus on the history of Deanwood’s location, how residents utilize or avoid Safeway grocery stores, how nostalgic memories impact current resident’s views on food inequality, the symbol of racial progress local Community Market, and lastly, the symbolism behind the local community garden. The author, Ashanté Reese, interviews individual community members throughout her study, asking them how they interact with grocery stores and obtain access to foods. Reese records the stories of older residents, who talk of the fresh produce their families used to grow on their properties in the 1940s and 50s. The oral histories reveal that Deanwood’s citizens were relatively self-sufficient in terms of having access to fresh, healthy foods. In the late 1960s, however, grocery stores in the area began to decrease drastically, with chain grocery stores leaving the predominantly black neighborhoods to cater towards more white, affluent areas.

One of the remaining grocery stores in the area, Safeway, was avoided by many Deanwood residents due to its poor quality and management. Residents who have access to cars will shop outside their community for better food, while those who cannot travel believe they should have the right to better quality shopping experience. Time and children’s health also factor into where residents choose to shop, which could force them to compromise on other costs in their life, such as the cost of dental insurance.

In Reese’s third chapter, she investigates how nostalgia plays a role in how resident’s view their access to food today. Through interviews with the older generations, the narratives given reveal the interconnectedness between the loss of stores, community togetherness, and self-reliance on navigating the food landscape. One community member mentioned that fast food and convenience stores caused people to change their own habits and lifestyles such as cooking less home meals. Residents base their current access to food off their past access, which provides a look into the social changes of the community. One integral aspect of Deanwood that has not changes much however, is the Community Market discussed in chapter five. Owned by Mr. Jones father before being handed down to him, this black-owned business represents continuity, self-reliance, and communal responsibility. Although it is not a busy store, it is beloved by the community because it stands as a past relic for Deanwood’s African American history.

Similarly, the community garden in chapter five serves as a symbol of Deanwood’s resident’s commitment to continue residing in the area, despite the uncertainty of what will become of their low-income housing. Although the garden was not as successful as community members hoped it would be, the children in the area were able to learn basic gardening skills and contribute to the well-being of their community. Together, these community member’s stories reflect on the many ways that marginalized peoples’ access to food in our nation is oppressed, but also sheds light onto how resilient citizens can be when faced with social injustices.

1 Comment

  1. Nice job. You’ve recognized that there is both the larger structural issues and individual agency at work.

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