Exploring Cultural Identity and Engagement among Hispanic Youth: Implications for Food Justice and Food System Development

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Virginia Tech


Creating healthy lifestyles and access to quality, nutritious food for marginalized groups, specifically Hispanics, is becoming an increasing topic of conversation. However, issues of access, availability, lack of initiatives in many areas which allow these individuals to become involved in the local food movement have plagued this population, especially the youth. In recent years, Georgetown, Delaware has become a major immigration hub, seeing large populations of Hispanics migrating to the area. Like many locations which see large numbers of individuals of a particular ethnic group not known to the area, the need for culturally relevant and responsive resources becomes imperative. Considering that youth are a vital part of society and are widely impacted by issues of food insecurity and unhealthy food choices, it is important to address their intentions to become actively engaged in their local food system and the role that their identity as Hispanic youth plays in that intention. To assess Hispanic youth's intentions to engage in their local food system and food heritage, the researcher selected a group of 11 Hispanic youth from Georgetown, Delaware, to participate in a Photovoice project, which called on them to take pictures of items salient to their identity, how they understood their local food system and perceived barriers. Following the two-week photo taking period, youth then participated in two focus group sessions, one to obtain information relevant to the research topic and the other, serving as a member check and to elicit further information. Findings of this study include the idea that cultural identity serves as a major influential factor to youth engagement in the food movement and in food heritage. Cultural identity shapes the attitudes of Hispanic youth towards engaging. Further, attitudes toward food movement involvement and educating others positively impacts youth intentions to engage. Hispanic youth's attitudes toward protecting the authenticity of food and culture serve as an additional influential factor for engaging in the food movement and advocating for food justice. Social pressure from family and peers significantly impacts the food choices and cultural engagement of Hispanic youth. Food system knowledge and awareness contributes to youth attitudes towards the food movement and food and cultural heritage. Lack of knowledge can potentially impede engagement. Lastly, self-efficacy concerning the food movement acts as both a facilitator and inhibitor to youth engagement. However, cultural identity and familial support serve as factors which boost the confidence levels of Hispanic youth to engage in the food movement and food heritage.



Hispanic, youth, food heritage, youth development, food justice, identity