Community Food Work as Critical Practice: A Faith-based Perspective


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Virginia Tech


Historically, many faith-based hunger relief efforts address food insecurity through the emergency food system, but they often do not challenge the systemic causes of the need, which according to some, are poverty and inequality. As a promising alternative, community food work is a radical approach to food system change that imbues values of justice, sustainability, and equity into the food system to reduce the pervasiveness of poverty and inequality in society.

I used narrative inquiry as methodology in a faith-based context to explore the role of criticality in community food work. Additionally, I explored the treatment of hegemony in these practitioners' critically reflective practice. I engaged six practitioners in narrative-based interviews and subsequently asked them to read and analyze their own interview. I then gathered all participants for a collective reflection session where we reflected on excerpts from the interviews and used them as a foundation for further dialogue and reflection.

Each practitioner used their faith to varying degrees in the performance of their work. I found significant notions of feeling called to serve, and bringing God's kingdom to earth, but an avoidance to use this work to evangelize. The narratives reflected community food work as a community development effort and extended beyond the context of food. Affirming, trusting relationships serve as a foundation to how this group of practitioners approach their work, and provide the space to interact with their work in radical ways and raise critical consciousness.



community food work, faith-based organization, narrative inquiry, critically reflective practitioner, praxis