Date of Award

12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

International Family and Community Studies

Advisor

Mobley, Catherine

Committee Member

Holaday , Bonnie

Committee Member

Marsella , Anthony J

Abstract

In our global era, the modern food system can be viewed as consisting of a dominant macro-level corporate food industry, challenged by broad-based meso-level food justice and democracy movements, which are in turn fueled by micro-level community food initiatives. Research has yet to examine the role of community gardens in the context of this complex, multi-level food system. Grounded theory methodology was thus used to explore the deeper meaning of the community gardening experience to participants, in order to better understand the ways in which community gardens may scale up and contribute to democratizing the food system. Analysis of the qualitative data gathered through in-depth interviews with community garden participants revealed nine emergent themes that can be further interpreted through theoretical frameworks of basic human needs. Community gardens were found to be particularly meaningful to participants in that they contribute to the fulfillment of very basic needs as postulated by Abraham Maslow and Erich Fromm, and thereby have the potential to empower participants, and inform their personal identity in ways that make them more likely to identify with collective action and food system change. Interpretation of the findings reveals the potential role that community gardens can play as a hub and catalyst for major food system change by fostering recognition of basic needs as universal human rights and cutting across a multitude of sectors to connect the micro-, meso-, and macro-levels. Implications for research, practice, and policy are discussed as they relate not only to incremental change in the global food system, but also progress toward a more just, socially responsible, and peaceful world.

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