[In the reconfigured SOAN curriculum, seniors in the department spend their Fall semester reading somewhat comprehensively on two topics they select from the breadth of sociological and anthropological interests. For many of the seniors, that new foundation in the social scientific literature will inform the independent research projects they will design and then conduct in the Spring semester. As we approach the midway point of the Fall semester, I asked students in my thesis seminar to sketch the research projects they are configuring for their last semester at Puget Sound. At this point, these are just plans, but collectively this group of projects look great.]
During my time in college I have developed a growing interest in the politics and practices of food production, particularly within city limits. Recent years have seen a growth in the “hip” factor of gardening, an explosion in the number of community gardens in the USA, and an expanding interest in food locality. In the fall of 2013 I completed a research project on the relationship between community gardens and the Pierce Conservation District, the group in charge of regulating and supporting community gardens in Tacoma. Also in the fall of 2013 I took a course on the International Political Economy of Food and Hunger, which served to spark an interest in how local food politics are part of larger food systems. Building off of both of these experiences, I plan in the spring of 2015 to research how people form relationships with their food and how they come to choose these relationships.
My starting research question is how people relate to the food they eat and what conscious choices they’ve made when selecting foods. To limit the scope of the study I plan to focus primarily on people in their twenties and members of community gardens. These demographics are particularly interesting to me because I want to look at how young people’s opinions of food change as they move from their parent’s home, are exposed to more opinions, and are forced to make more independent choices. Community gardeners are of interest to me because they are an example of people making a defined and involved choice to eat in a particular way. I am curious about the overlap between these two demographic groups and the ways in which they may influence each other, as well as external influencing factors. I believe that only with a true understanding of the food system and how people relate to it can a positive, and necessary, change be constructed and occur.