Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Karen Blanchard

Second Advisor

Aqeel Tirmizi


Wisconsin has picturesque landscapes of classic farms built during the expansion of farming in the United States during the 1910’s, with big red barns and silos next to a white farm house (Ulrich, 1989). Milwaukee has a lot of history in industry, known as “Brew City” a plethora of beer companies have called it home, as well as Harley Davidson. Yet following national patterns of social exclusion including business disinvestment, discriminatory lending practices, grocery store redlining, public transportation redevelopment and market consolidation, the cumulative processes of social and political dynamics have made these visions of plenty a utopian dream of the last century.

In fact these processes have created a phenomena of low accessibility to healthy food and resources called food deserts. The process of getting to the store, if healthy food is available, and paying for the food are the overarching themes with layers of complexity changing with each particular location and its inhabitants. Food deserts are important because they affect health. Inner city food deserts disproportionately affect People of Color.

This paper focuses on a neighborhood surrounding a 1.5 acre urban garden in north Milwaukee and what challenges and opportunities arise in trying to create easier access for people to have fruits and vegetables. Utilizing art-based research, this project delves into the lived experience of 6 women in the midst of this inner city neighborhood. The findings include their hopes and dreams for themselves, their children, and the larger community in the thick of concerns of health and doctor prescribed diets.

While historic national socio-political patterns have created these areas with little to no access to healthy food, the way out is through community level collaboration, education, and growth with culturally relevant processes to reverse the disproportionate effects of food deserts. The answers must be born from the community affected itself and in partnership with advocates at all levels. The data has shown there is more of an emphasis on the ‘we’ than the ‘I’ within the neighborhood and ‘family’ extends to the whole community, therefore the methods of social change must arise from those connections. Each city, and neighborhood, has its own circumstance and context for that occurrence, and hence its own path out of the ‘desert’ must be found with its own characteristics in mind. Ideas and innovation can be learned from other places, but a plan for each community must be made by the community itself.


Art Practice | Other Arts and Humanities


Image Location