• Connecting for survival: Understanding the spatial implications of migrant women's food insecurity coping strategies in Medellin, Colombia, and Washington, DC

      Hayes-Conroy, Allison, 1981-; Gilbert, Melissa R.; Pearsall, Charlyn; Graddy-Lovelace, Garrett; Levine, Judith Adrienne, 1965- (Temple University. Libraries, 2016)
      Women worldwide carry out strategies to support themselves and their families that rely on connecting to physical resources, especially food, and to important social ties. This dissertation provides a nuanced understanding of the spatial implications of this connectivity as made visible through mobility and social networks in two cities. Everyday experiences of food security can be bolstered by access to greater mobility (e.g., access to a taxi/bus to go to the central market), which can be provided through social networks (e.g., sharing a ride with a family member or neighbor). At the same time, a lack of mobility may inhibit a person’s access to food (e.g., an inability to move beyond one’s neighborhood due to risk of violence), and is especially true when this need for mobility interferes with other social network obligations (e.g., needing to care for children). This mixed-methods research uses sketch mapping during in-depth interviews with 72 migrant women coping with food insecurity in Medellín, Colombia, and Washington, DC, USA. Based on this data, I use relational poverty’s emphasis on social relations to explain that food insecurity results from global political economic systems, especially a capitalist, corporate food regime (chapter 3). However, in moving beyond structural explanations, this dissertation also illustrates everyday survival strategies – such as relying on informal social networks – that act as resistance to these processes (chapter 4), are both social and mobile – for example, traveling with members of social networks to access emergency food providers (chapter 5), and are impacted locally by urban planning policies reflecting global norms (chapter 6). In doing so, this dissertation argues that food insecure individuals are powerful agents carrying out creative coping strategies that are constrained by political economic structures. Building on theoretical foundations from critical food studies, urban geography and feminist geography, this research contributes to these literatures through theorizing structure and agency dynamics evident in food insecurity, particularly from the perspective of those coping with food insecurity. It is important to attend to their complex, lived experience in order to better understand if strategies for alleviating food insecurity are appropriate. Additionally, focusing on different contexts of food insecurity allows illustrating how cities are similarly and differently integrated into globalized processes influencing experiences of poverty and governance in both the global north and south. It also contributes a more nuanced understanding of the food insecurity experiences of low-income women migrating into urban environments, enabling more effective scholarship as well as improved policy making and service provision by governments, relief agencies, and community organizations. For example, this dissertation provides critiques of policy approaches that singularly focus on increasing opportunities for consumption (chapters 3 and 5) and nutrition education programs emphasizing the ‘right’ kinds of consumption (chapters 4 and 5). These policy approaches ignore the structural causes of food insecurity (chapter 3) and the nutritional knowledge of food insecure migrants (chapter 4). Instead, I argue for policies and programs to be created with a better understanding of the lived experience of those they seek to support. This includes valuing their critiques of political economic systems (chapter 4), supporting their non-economic survival strategies – such as exchange in informal networks (chapters 4 and 5) and growing food (chapter 6), and increasing flexibility to accommodate ‘non-traditional’ mobility and (informal) work situations.