Urban Food Stories is a community storytelling project that highlights the unique and important food traditions of the individuals around us. Through interviews, photographs, and recipes, these stories intend to broaden the narratives of the 'alternative food movement', thus making it more inclusive.
About the project
The Urban Food Stories project was started by Professor Julian Agyeman and a group of students in his first Food Justice: Critical Approaches on Policy and Planning class in the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program at Tufts University who believe that storytelling has an important role in urban planning and food justice.
In the class, students discuss the importance of placemaking and storytelling as tools for food justice. This project began in 2013, in one Boston neighborhood, Dudley Street, where students interviewed community members about growing, cooking, and sharing food. In 2014, students worked in a different neighborhood, Everett, and after that, they have worked somewhere new each year, revealing exciting stories and sharing them through this website.
The Urban Food Stories project, started in 2013, and The Cambriville World Crops project, started in 2015, are sister sites that explore food justice through case studies of projects both locally and nationally. Both websites expand on an interest in how storytelling and placemaking play an important role in urban planning and food justice, especially among diasporic groups. The projects are focused on bringing together diverse communities in the urban agriculture field. Working in tandem, these sites work to bring to light the intercultural diversity in the urban agriculture movement, as well as to challenge the dominant narratives of race, class and gender in the food movement.
The alternative food movement churns out dominant, privileged narratives, strictly defining the way we think about eating. These days, buzzwords like 'local', 'organic', or 'sustainable' are all around us. These trends become a set of unspoken rules for the “right” and “wrong” way to eat. Certain sets of people, based on race, class, and sex are seen as “right” or “wrong” in their food choices. Food itself is universal, we all need it to survive, but the stories we have and the way we connect to food are unique; any movement that hopes to create justice in our food system should reflect that. For each individual, food is more than local, healthy, or fresh. It is memory, tradition, place, roots, family, and self. It isn’t really about the food, after all, it is about the people and the places.
We are telling stories everyday, but only certain stories are being heard. Urban Food Stories intends to use storytelling as a tool to challege dominant narratives of race, class, and sex in the food movement by bringing a multitude of voices to the table. For more information about storytelling and urban planning, visit Professor Agyeman's blog.
Growing Urban Food Stories
While the Urban Food Stories project was started in one university classroom, we hope that it will spread to other classrooms and communities across the globe, beginning a movement of storytelling among planners, academics, and community members alike. We're hoping that you might want to explore and help build the Urban Food Stories storybank. You might already have stories, or you might want to consider including a 'storying' element to a food-based class you teach. Here are some guidelines to help you think about how you might go about this. Contact us to upload or link your project(s) to this one. Feel free to link the Urban Food Stories site to yours. We only request that you let us know if you do this.
Our only intention in this is to grow a bank of stories which will inspire, engage and support the wonderful work going on in localities all around the country. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you think may be able to contribute.