Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Sustainable Agriculture

First Advisor

Ann Oberhauser


In this dissertation, I study strategies for local and alternative food initiatives to advance more just and equitable approaches to food insecurity. My research focuses on one emerging type of local food initiative designed to address food insecurity, community donation gardening. I engaged in a three-year feminist and ethnographic study of a community-run and USDA- and Cooperative Extension-sponsored donation gardening and food rescue program, Growing Together Iowa. In Growing Together, community gardeners grow or glean food to distribute directly to community members experiencing food insecurity or alternatively to donate to partnering emergency food organizations, such as area food pantries. I focus on the institutional and community gardening partners in Growing Together in an effort to better understand the ways in which solutions to food insecurity emerge from social relations and socio-historical contexts. Framing community donation gardening as sites of political-ecological negotiation and struggle, I show how the politics of food insecurity unfolds in everyday life in Growing Together. I also explore how the social justice praxis of marginalized communities and community-engaged scholar-activists can play a role in that unfolding. Drawing upon feminist theories and methodologies to examine these sites, I demonstrate how uneven power relations permeate even well-intended efforts to address food insecurity. Through community-engaged scholar-activism and co-authorship, this dissertation also identifies possibilities for developing solutions to food insecurity that include but extend beyond immediate food needs. These efforts reveal opportunities for developing new subjectivities and practices by identifying different modes of connecting to food and community and by contesting the rhetoric of personal responsibility and poor food choices attributed to food insecurity. Engaging with food justice and a feminist political ecology of food insecurity that is material, structural, and discursive, this research works to reconfigure power relations in local food initiatives by working with and for those who are most marginalized in our food system.

Copyright Owner

Carrie Michelle Chennault



File Format


File Size

154 pages