Eating while young and Black : food, foodways, and gentrification in Austin, Texas
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Austin, Texas is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and, increasingly, a global food destination. The city’s restaurants, urban farms, and food trucks have been widely featured in national and international media. This creative and sustainable food development is both a reflection of Austin’s population growth and a catalyst for urban change, with implications for long-established residents of color. Among cities with a double digit growth rate, Austin is the only one to witness a decline of its African-American population. Historically concentrated in the urban core of East Austin, many African Americans have moved to suburban and rural areas (Tang and Ren 2014). Urban growth, gentrification, sustainable food development, and Black outmigration are familiar to cities throughout the country. Despite this dynamic context, food-related research tends to focus on what Black populations consume. Black health disparities motivate a focus on food intake and “food deserts” in current literature. This dissertation engages a critical participatory action (CPAR) research approach with Black youth ages 15-19 from who reside in East Austin to consider food through a social lens that takes lived experiences with food and the restructuring of the food landscape into account. Youth co-researchers reside in Central East Austin, an area experiencing intensive economic redevelopment and gentrification. I begin by situating youth experiences in context, drawing attention to the impact of development on the local food landscape. Through participatory workshops, film, and interviews, the youth describe personal geographies of eating, shopping, growing, and sharing food. These geographies are broadly defined for this project to encompass the built environment as well as the identities, emotions, and memories the youth connect with food in their daily lives. By focusing on food from a social perspective, this project highlights counter geographies. Youth co-researchers disrupt stock stories about East Austin as a “food desert,” underscore diversity among African-American youth, and illustrate young people’s awareness of urban change. In closing, I offer best practices for engaging with young people in food work.