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CHAPTER 9 Foregrounding Community Building in Community Food Security A Case Study of the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market and Esperanza Garden laura lawson, luke drake, and nurgul fitzgerald introduction Community food system thinking requires attention to the interrelationships that shape the needs, resources, and opportunities within a physical and social context. A comprehensive community food security strategy starts by clarifying the needs and existing resources within a community and developing a suite of strategies—food policy councils, farmers markets, educational programs, urban gardens, and so forth—that will address issues of access, affordability, cultural appropriateness, and ongoing sustainability (Kaufman and Bailkey 2000; Winne 2008; Raja, Born, and Russell 2008). Given that every community has its own political, socioeconomic, and environmental context, the starting point often involves engaging stakeholders—public agencies, nonprofit service providers, and advocacy (Pothukuchi and Kaufman 2000). In practice, however, developing a multifaceted project can be difficult 142 production because of the challenges of communication, negotiation among multiple stakeholders, and the appropriate direction of resources. Particularly when the networks involve institutions and stakeholders who seek to assist a community , the balance between community capacity building and neoliberal or paternalistic engagement requires careful and open discussion of power in decision-making for program development and evolution (Drake 2014; Harris 2009). Even if the implemented project creates new opportunities for food access, its success in practice may still face challenges in garnering the intended participation because of hidden personal and household costs, such as adding a farmers market to a household’s already-complex shopping routine, lack of time and experience to participate in urban gardening, or discouragement because of a program’s inattention to cultural practices and norms. A community-appropriate approach draws on a network of stakeholders , must be attuned to the needs and practices of the intended community, and must continually reflect on its own decision-making process to ensure balance and responsiveness. Community food systems are a topic of research and engagement that draws university interests from many disciplines. As with other community-university engagement efforts, universities may become involved in a local community food security endeavor for a range of reasons: for research purposes, as a partner required for a grant, as an avenue for community outreach, or as an anchor institution within a community that seeks to play an active role in its improvement (Sorensen and Lawson 2012; Reardon 1996). While community -university partnership models emphasize participatory approaches, participation has varied definitions that may range from token or symbolic participation to real power vested in local groups (Arnstein 1969; Ostrander 2004; Mayfield and Lucas 2000; Kellogg Commission 1999). Academics may have considerable knowledge to share, but they may not be able to transfer knowledge into action or into the tangible forms of assistance often desired by the affected community (Stoecker 1999). In the context of a community food security project, universities hold expertise in a range of areas that might benefit a program; for instance, social scientists might assist with community organizing and natural scientists might advise on organic horticulture techniques. The question remains, however, whether this is simply technical assistance or a community partnership. Foregrounding Community Building 143 This essay explores these themes through the case of the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market, a project that was initially driven by multiple departments within Rutgers University, the Johnson & Johnson corporation, and nonprofit organizations in the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey.1 To understand the dynamics of such a project, we find it useful to examine it as an iterative and evolving process rather than a set of sequential steps known in advance. Instead of simply constructing a market pavilion and expecting the program to emerge “naturally,” much work went into building organizational capacity. By cultivating relationships with community leaders and developing ways to assess and discuss performance over time, market staff were able to facilitate an evolving program oriented to long-term benefit. Although each group involved certainly stands to gain—whether through publicity, research, outreach, new customers, or improved food access—the acknowledgment of shared benefits across participants has led to a representation of the project as community owned. developing the market The city of New Brunswick is roughly five and a half square miles, with a population of approximately fifty-six thousand people, and is located in an urban context surrounded by other municipalities. Established as a colonial town, New Brunswick has transitioned from an economic base in agriculture and trade, to industry, to medical and pharmaceutical complexes. It is...


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