From Food Security to Food Sovereignty: Preparing Social Workers to Effectively Intervene in Food Systems

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Social Work Education

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Globally, conventional food systems are failing to produce enough high quality, nutritious food for the world’s population. For those in the helping professions, the most typical entry point into this crisis is emergency food assistance services. However, current food systems are also threaded through with legacies of racialized violence, ongoing exploitation of land and labor, the effects of pollution and climate change, the crisis of hunger, and the desire of peoples across the globe to choose how to nourish their communities. As such, social work education must pay greater attention to the complexity of food systems to prepare future practitioners to effectively intervene in this arena. This paper introduces a conceptual model that distinguishes between food security, food justice, and food sovereignty—examining the model’s utility to social work education and practice. To explore opportunities to integrate course content and practice in food systems, we offer a case study of a community-engaged project to advance food sovereignty efforts in Oregon, tracing contributions to student learning as well as to the community partner. We conclude with implications for social work education so that future practitioners can intervene more effectively and intentionally in food systems.



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