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Research Reports

Geography and Philosophy

Research Reports

Including the voices of communities in food insecurity research: An empowerment-based agenda for food scholarship

The disempowering manner in which "hungry people" are portrayed in public discourse and the dehumanizing way in which they are treated when they try to provision for themselves demand that scholars create counter frames to subvert the existing portrayal of those experiencing food insecurity. In this paper, we call for a program of research that uses participatory research methodologies to invite, recognize, and represent the voices of people experiencing food insecurity. We argue for an expanded program of food scholarship that places the experiences, needs, and voices of people experiencing food insecurity in the foreground. Such a program is needed in order to better understand the lived reality of food insecurity, how interventions can be designed for communities as partners in research rather than objects of investigation, and how communities can mobilize themselves for broader environmental change.  

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Lincoln Park Food Access Feasibility Report

The Fair Food Access Campaign in Lincoln Park is a neighborhood-driven effort to address food access issues in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth. The effort receives agencies support from the Healthy Duluth Area Coalition (HDAC), CHUM, Community Action Duluth and Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). All partnering agencies work in Lincoln Park and have identified access to fresh, affordable food as a neighborhood priority.

Fair Food Access Campaign Goals 

  • Improve food access for the most vulnerable groups (seniors, families with children and people with low-incomes). 
  • Engage the Lincoln Park neighborhood in creating and leading the food access solutions. 
  • Use creative approaches to food access – involving producers, consumers and local businesses. 
  • Explore policy options to help improve accessibility. 

With the support of a $25,000 Cause An Effect grant from State Farm Insurance, the Fair Food Access Campaign organized a door-knocking operation that took place July 29 - August 4, 2012. The purpose of the door-knocking effort was to raise neighborhood awareness about the work of the Fair Food Access Campaign and to hear and document neighborhood concerns about food access. The volunteer canvassers knocked on 1,337 doors, spoke to 470 people and ultimately surveyed 346 Lincoln Park residents about the problems they observed accessing healthy and affordable food in the Lincoln Park community. Five community-focused strategies were identified through the survey and subsequent neighborhood meetings. 

This feasibility report analyzes four of the possible solutions to problems identified by neighborhood residents: 

  • Opening a farmers market 
  • Improving transit options in the community 
  • Building a new grocery store in the Lincoln Park neighborhood 
  • Nutrition education and cooking 

This report is intended to serve as a guide for neighborhood leaders in the Fair Food Access Campaign to help them effectively organize for improved food access in the community. It includes best practices from other communities around the country as well as potential collaborators in the Duluth/Superior area. 

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Food Access in Duluth's Lincoln Park/West End Neighborhood

Adam Pine, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Minnesota Duluth

John Bennett, Assistant Extension Professor, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality

With the assistance of:
Josiah Grover, Department of Sociology, Ball State University
Gina Hollinday, Department of Geography, University of Minnesota Duluth

The research can also be accessed online at:

Our research asks the question "Is the Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood a food desert, and what steps can be taken to increase access to fresh and healthy food in the neighborhood?" We answered this question through qualitative and quantitative analysis of the local shopping community in Lincoln Park/West End using the following four steps: (1) inventory of stores in the local shopping community; (2) a survey distributed to 2,800 households in the community asking where they did their shopping and what types of problems they encountered; (3) interviews with local community leaders about what problems they see in the local community; and (4) a market analysis of the Lincoln Park / West End trade area. Our research found that the Lincoln Park/West End has a complex and innovative food provisioning system. Residents purchase groceries at the West Duluth Super One, but also travel to grocery outlets throughout the Twin Ports area and make use of a variety of no-traditional food sources such as food buying clubs and gardening. However, significant problems in the local food community demand our attention:

· A small but significant portion of the Lincoln Park/West End population (10-15%) experience significant barriers to accessing food. They overpay for food at local convenience stores and, generally, have a difficult time finding the food that they and their families need.

· Our store analysis found that the existing local shopping outlets have very high prices and inadequate selection, especially in terms of fresh vegetables.

· Market analysis indicates that because a grocery store does not currently exist in Duluth's Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, the community has a "leakage" factor of about $5.3 million, meaning that residents are spending those dollars at stores outside of their community's trade area.

· The consensus was clear from our respondents that they want a grocery store or well-stocked convenience store in the community in order to improve food access for themselves and for their neighbors

A variety of obtainable options could solve the problems faced by people living in food deserts. For example, public and private entities could work in partnership to help either a large grocery store or a smaller convenience store operate profitably in the community. Another option is to increase transit options to stores outside of the neighborhood, either by increasing access to taxicabs or altering existing bus lines. Finally, several existing organizations are currently exploring ways to develop sustainable food hubs that could dramatically improve access to fresh and healthy vegetables. We fully support these efforts and hope that this research into how Lincoln Park / West End residents are shopping will help to support these efforts.

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Quality of Life and Population Movement on Minnesota's Iron Range

The Iron Range of Minnesota has historically had an economy based on the extraction of the region's iron ore. Local communities rely on mining jobs and their economy is heavily tied to the ups and downs of the iron ore market. In contrast, the idea of consumption-driven economic development is that local amenities and services produced and sold within an area can create a more stable regional economy through the recycling of dollars within communities. With job and population growth forecasted on the Iron Range through a combination of future retirements and new large-scale projects, preparation for growth and strategies to attract and retain younger residents is important to maintain a healthy economy.

Our research question is:
What are the "unique place characteristics" of the Iron Range that encourage existing residents to remain and draw in new residents?
Data for this report was collected through surveys given to residents of selected Iron Range cities. We asked residents questions about how they defined quality of life on the Iron Range, why people would move to and away from Range communities, and their views on sustainable practices.

Brett Ausmus, Jason Beutz, Jessica Montgomery, Kevin Pexa, David Rosen, undergraduate students, University of Minnesota Duluth; John Bennett, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality; and Adam Pine, Department of Urban and Regional Studies, University of Minnesota Duluth

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