Abstract: Youth Cultivating Change: Photovoice with a Community Agriculture Program (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Youth Cultivating Change: Photovoice with a Community Agriculture Program

Friday, January 13, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Aishia Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Rebecka Bloomer, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow/Research Manager, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Shakeyra Elmore, Doctoral Candidate, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Background and Purpose: Segregation and redlining policies within Louisville served to create underserved and under resourced communities in the south and west ends of the city. Both the South and West end experience inequitable access to grocery stores, as well as healthy and affordable food options. The Food Literacy Project (FLP) is an organization working with youth to transform their communities through food, farming, and the land. The Youth Community Agriculture Program (YCAP), operated by FLP, focuses on recruiting and hiring youth to work on urban farms in South and West Louisville. In addition to employment, the YCAP provides education to youth about food justice and advocacy through a social justice focused curriculum. Youth engage in field trips to grocery stores, restaurants, and community events in the city. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the FLP’s model for youth engagement and explore areas of importance identified by youth.

Methods: The research team used photovoice methods with the partner FLP nonprofit organization. Youth participants in the YCAP program were recruited for participation. Informed consent and youth assent was completed, as well as a series of photovoice training sessions about picture taking and ethics with six youth between 16-18 years old. Youth were also provided with photo release forms. Youth engaged in picture-taking in response to questions focused on the impact of participation in YCAP, with specific attention towards the areas of leadership, community engagement, food justice and agricultural knowledge. Youth engaged in virtual critical dialogue sessions about their pictures and their meanings. Youth also provided narratives related to their picture taking.

Results: Narratives, critical dialogues, and photos served as data for thematic analysis. Emerging themes identified by youth were community, stakeholder identification, and environmental and food justice. Youth discussed building community while engaging in the YCAP. Youth identified persons of importance in their communities such as business owners, policy makers, and school board members. They described inequities associated with racial inequality and neighborhood differences such as school lunches, store produce, price differences, and cleanliness and appearance of restaurants. Youth discussed the positive feelings connected to building community with other youth in the program and learning more through YCAP.

Conclusions and Implications: Youth discussed feelings of empowerment associated with having greater education about food justice and advocacy. Youth gained extensive knowledge and were able to actively identify root causes of inequities experienced within their communities. Potential action strategies included increasing food access to West and South Louisville, greater accessibility of restaurants available in wealthier areas of the city, healthier school lunches, and community beautification. Despite discussing the impact of inequities stemming from systemic racism, youth primarily identified mezzo rather than macro level intervention points for social action.