1st Edition

Savoring Alternative Food
School gardens, healthy eating and visceral difference

ISBN 9780815395331
Published December 8, 2017 by Routledge
208 Pages

USD $56.95

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Book Description

Advocates of the alternative food movement often insist that food is our "common ground" – that through the very basic human need to eat, we all become entwined in a network of mutual solidarity. In this challenging book, the author explores the contradictions and shortcomings of alternative food activism by examining specific endeavours of the movement through various lenses of social difference – including class, race, gender, and age. 

While the solidarity adage has inspired many, it is shown that this has also had the unfortunate effect of promoting sameness over difference, eschewing inequities in an effort to focus on being "together at the table". The author explores questions of who belongs at the table of alternative food, and who gets to decide what is eaten there; and what is at stake when alternative food practices become the model for what is right to eat? Case studies are presented based on fieldwork in two distinct loci of alternative food organizing: school gardens and slow food movements in Berkeley, California and rural Nova Scotia. The stories take social difference as a starting point, but they also focus specifically on the complexities of sensory experience – how material bodies take up social difference, both confirming and disrupting it, in the visceral processes of eating. 

Overall the book demonstrates the importance of moving beyond a promotion of universal "shoulds" of eating, and towards a practice of food activism that is more sensitive to issues of social and material difference.

Table of Contents

Introduction – Eating Sea Urchin for Breakfast 

Part 1: Table Settings 

1. Exploring Visceral (Re)Actions 

2. Doing Visceral Research 

3. Knowing Food 

Part 2: Tasting Difference 

4. A Tale of Two Dinners 

5. It’s Not Just About the Collard Greens 

6. Real Men Eat Raw Onions 

7. We Run it All Off! 

Part 3: Policy and Practice  

8. Food Pedagogies 

Conclusion – A Thousand Tiny Eithers; A Thousand Tiny Ors 


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Jessica Hayes-Conroy is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York, USA.


"Visceralities, materialities and affect are masterfully brought to the fore in this theoretically innovative and important book. Traversing hierarchies of class, race, gender and age, Hayes-Conroy elucidates how bodies, foods and identities interplay and demonstrates how a focus on the embodied practices of eating not only extends, but is also critical to, our understandings of alternative food movements. Written in an engaging and lively style, Savoring Alternative Food is essential reading for students and scholars concerned with the cultural politics of food, food justice and activism, the body, pedagogies, and personhood." – Emma-Jayne Abbots, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK. 

"This richly evocative study challenges school garden and cooking programs, and the alternative food movement more generally, to go beyond the bland notions of food as universal experience and really dig in to the ways that social difference shapes the visceral reality of eating. Grounded in the lived experiences of students, teachers and activists, Hayes-Conroy pushes readers to think beyond questions of how we should eat and argues instead for an inclusive, body-focused approach to activism, education and healthcare."Alison Hope Alkon, University of the Pacific, USA. 

"Elegantly upending many of the assumptions of alternative food activism, Hayes-Conroy gives us reason to believe in a politics of food that moves beyond the "shoulds" of right and wrong eating, embraces complexities and contradiction, and thrives in the midst of social difference."Charlotte Biltekoff, Associate Professor of American Studies and Food Science, University of California Davis, USA. 

"Hayes-Conroy's Savoring Alternative Food is stunningly innovative work, richly theorized yet solidly grounded in the complexities of place and experience. Combining original and provocative insights from human geography, anthropology and sociology, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in food activism, public education, and the production and contestation of knowledge around food and nutrition."Kai A. Schafft, Associate Professor of Education, Penn State University, USA, Editor, Journal of Research in Rural Education and Director, Center on Rural Education and Communities.