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Food Security and Place-based Food Systems: A Case Study of Chinatown Food Markets in Honolulu, Hawaii

Sat, August 12, 4:30 to 5:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 520A


How to build a healthy food system that satisfies the needs of local residents? From local food to community food security, various initiatives and movements have emerged in the pursuit of alternative agifood systems that ultimately meet people’s economic, social and political demands. Despite increasing popularity and demonstrated benefits, alternative agrifood is still under-defined and its many issues pertaining to gender, race, and class are left unsolved.
In my paper, I propose to study place-based food networks as a potential response to current debates on Hawai‘i’s food security and agrifood issues in general. Because each place has its own distinctive resources and characteristics, I argue it is only through addressing the specific needs and demands of localities that food problems can be solved. A careful sociological analysis of food security in Hawai‘i is offered, supplemented by examination of literature on alternative agrifood networks, place-based development and informal ethnic economy. To further situate my discussion in a local context, I look at small ethnic food markets in Honolulu’s Chinatown district, focusing on their implications for improving food security and fostering place-based networks. Aside from offering fresh food at affordable prices, those markets also sell culturally significant food to ethnic populations. Despite their potential role in improving community food security, small food markets of this type have been consistently understudied. Because food insecurity is one of the more troubling food issues in the islands, this offers a powerful entry point to gauge the pressing food needs of local residents.


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