As world food prices threaten an increasingly urban population, there is a greater need for poor people to have access to and claims over where and how food is produced and distributed, especially within marginalised urban settings. The global movement for food sovereignty has been one attempt to reclaim rights and participation in the food system and challenge the corporate food regime. However, food sovereignty is often considered a rural issue for developing countries when, increasingly, its demands for fair food systems and rights are intensely urban. Through interviews with scholars, activists, non-governmental and grassroots organisations in Oakland and New Orleans, I examine the extent to which food sovereignty has progressed in a US urban context as a concept, strategy and practice. In doing so, I contrast and compare food sovereignty to other dominant movements such as food justice, and find that while many organisations and urban agriculture programs do not draw on food sovereignty explicitly, the understandings and motives for driving urban food activism are similar across movements―in the trenches, local actors draw on elements of each movement in practice. Overall, however, because of the different histories, geographic contexts, and relations to the state and capital, the strategies and approaches of food justice and food sovereignty still differ. I conclude that the depth of food sovereignty in the US urban context is largely mitigated by neoliberal framing and political dampening, mainstreaming the approach and lessening its radical framework. Relevance to Development Studies Countries are in constant states of ‘development’. As landscapes, livelihoods and globalisation continuously shift more towards the city, development stud-ies must bridge more rural-urban divides. The United States is an interesting and important case study for its contradictions in poverty and roles in power and influence. This paper examines US urban social food movements to ex-plore their potential in relating and connecting to more politically radical social movements like food sovereignty; one that challenges the very roots of capitalism and power structures found in the US, while calling for new and more democratic pathways. This study is an attempt to shed light on collaborative ways forward in re-developing our global food system.

Additional Metadata
Keywords food sovereignty, food justice, food movements, food regime, social move-ments, urban agriculture, United States
Thesis Advisor Borras Jr., Saturnino M.
Persistent URL
Series Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD)
Clendenning, Jessica. (2011, December 15). Between empty lots and open pots: understanding the rise of urban food movements.. Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD). Retrieved from