How does community food growing build community bonds? Insights from grassroots visual storytelling

Levidow, Les; Berardi, Andrea and Jung, Julia (2024). How does community food growing build community bonds? Insights from grassroots visual storytelling. Local Environment, 29(1) pp. 1–20.



Community food growing (CFG) builds community bonds and placemaking through emotional attachments. This process has been illuminated by grassroots visual storytelling, whereby CFG participants made short video stories about their experiences. The stories inspired community-building for better futures so as to encourage greater support for and participation in CFG. These stories were analysed to illuminate the social basis and roles of CFG. Participants” stories highlight some key aspects, namely: solidaristic mutual-aid relationships around food-growing, cooking, eating and distribution; cooperative, creative, adaptive capacities for collectively responding to common difficulties; empathetic bonds among participants across various differences (such as ethnicity, age and prior skills); a food culture strengthening participants’ knowledge and supply of healthy food; and the social-organisational skills for facilitating and inspiring those group practices. As these video stories show, community-building processes are radically hopeful: they acknowledge difficult issues and emotions, alongside aspirations for a different future. Together those roles helped to strengthen place-attachments for more participants. By screening the video stories, moreover, participants have made the process more visible and attractive. This provides a stronger basis to identify exemplary practices, extend their strengths, spread the societal benefits and attract greater commitments. Although many urban and peri-urban spaces are potentially available for expanding CFG, successful initiatives depend on social-organisational skills to facilitate self-confidence, empathetic cooperation and place attachments among volunteers. Support measures from Local Authorities are generally fragmented across several policy areas and so warrant integration. Community-building skills can provide a focus for such policy integration around the multiple roles and benefits of CFG initiatives.

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