Youth Building Roots Photovoice Project: A Youth Perspective on Where Food Comes From

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Capstone Committee:

Chairperson: Rickie Brawer, PhD, MPH

Preceptor: Christiaan Morssink, PhD, MPH

Committee Member: Melissa Dicarlo, MS, MPH


The primary goal was to gain youth perspectives of food systems, where youth believe their food comes from and explore how culture and access influence food choices. The project was carried out with fourteen middle school students in Philadelphia. The project was a supplement to The United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia’s program titled Youth Building Roots (YBR). Photovoice is a form of community based participatory research and is the methodology used to explore project aims. Photovoice joins together photography, storytelling and social action. Pictures were taken of things that were important to the students. Over two months, students participated in three photovoice sessions and a culminating event. Each session was tape-recorded and transcribed. Coding, content analysis, theme organization and frequency counting subsequently occurred. To ensure accuracy triangulation was used. Three major themes emerged: culture and food, eating healthy, and food supply and systems, with sub-themes under each. Most frequent of the major themes was eating healthy and the most common sub-theme was school food. Students spoke positively towards healthy eating, demanded a change in school food policy and showed interest in sustainable urban agriculture. Openness about cultural differences in regards to food and a lack of detailed understanding about food systems was observed. Future direction includes empowering youth by providing administration and the youth themselves with the tools to create change in response to the school food issue. Collaboration, stakeholder buy-in and outside resources are essential. Possible solutions include farm to school, school gardens and linking with universities and organizations for agricultural and financial support. Education on local and global food systems could be incorporated into school-based curriculum. Findings may only be applicable to the particular Philadelphia school and the surrounding area due to limitations such as small cohort size and convenience sampling.

Presentation: 23 minutes