Food Systems Research Lab

Researching, convening, and advocating for positive food systems change in southern Arizona

ABOUT 

The Food Systems Research Lab at the University of Arizona is a collaboration between the Center for Regional Food Studies (CRFS) and the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), two research centers dedicating to producing usable knowledge to address complex societal challenges. Led by Drs. Laurel Bellante (CRFS) and Gigi Owen (CLIMAS), the Lab is a rotating group of geographers, anthropologists, food system practitioners, and other researchers and community collaborators dedicated to creating positive change in the local and regional food systems of southern Arizona.

Purpose

  • Mobilize data, research, and university resources to advocate for more sustainable, equitable food systems in southern Arizona and beyond
  • Support research experience and collaboration across the UA campus (undergrads, grads, post-docs, staff, faculty)
  • Convene and connect researchers, community partners, food system stakeholders, and others to mobilize for societal change

Approach

  • Local and regional food system research and analysis
  • Collaborative, interdisciplinary, and community-driven research and exchange

Outputs

  • Planning documents
  • Policy briefs and other public-facing reports
  • Academic papers
  • Pilot programs and evaluations

Areas of Study

  • Local food systems values, risks, and resilience
  • Justice, diversity, and equity
  • Food access and food security
  • Climate change
  • Land and water access
  • Agricultural workforce
  • Cultural and culinary practices
  • Food-based economic development
  • Best practices for local food systems
  • Food waste reduction and other sustainable practices

 

Contact Us

Laurel Bellante - bellante@arizona.edu; Gigi Owen - gigi@arizona.edu

 

RESEARCH PROJECTS

Building Resilience in Southern Arizona's Local Food System

University of Arizona researchers: Gigi Owen (Climate Assessment for the Southwest), Laurel Bellante (Center for Regional Food Studies), Sarah Renkert (School of Anthropology), Chris Destiche (School of Geography, Development, and Environment), and Shelby Thompson (Pima County Food Alliance/AZ Health Zone). This research is a collaboration between the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), the Center for Regional Studies, and the Pima County Food Alliance.
The overarching goal of the study is to support the development of a local food system in southern Arizona that is more resilient to social, economic, and environmental stressors and disruptions. Our research team uses multiple research tools, including focus groups, interviews, policy analysis, media analysis, and secondary data to understand the current risks and structural barriers affecting our local food system, as well as strengths and opportunities that exist to improve and grow the local food system. Results from this research will be used to inform the Arizona Food Systems Network 3-year Statewide Food Plan as well as a Strategic Plan for Southern Arizona's food system (fall 2022). 
 

Assessing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Southern Arizona's Regional Food System 

University of Arizona researchers: Gigi Owen (Climate Assessment for the Southwest), Eden Kinkaid (School of Geography, Development, and Environment), and Laurel Bellante (Center for Regional Food Studies). This research is a collaboration between the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) and the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Arizona.

This research examines the impacts of COVID-19 on southern Arizona’s regional food system. It provides a detailed analysis of how COVID-19 and its associated social and economic impacts have affected various parts of southern Arizona’s food system, including food production, distribution, and consumption. Our research team uses multiple research tools, including surveys, interviews, policy analysis, media analysis, and secondary data to understand how COVID-19 has impacted different parts of our regional food system and how people have responded to the disruptions and opportunities caused by the pandemic.

The preliminary results of this study are now available in the 2020-21 State of the Tucson Food System Report: Assessing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Southern Arizona. A PDF version of the full report can be accessed here . You can also access a PDF of the Executive Summary of the report here (or visit https://crfs.arizona.edu/publications). Hard copies of the report are available upon request (email Laurel Bellante at bellante@arizona.edu

Additional articles/results are underway and will be posted here upon publication.

PUBLICATIONS

  • 2020-21 State of the Tucson Food System Report: Assessing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Southern Arizona. A PDF version of the full report can be accessed here . You can also access a PDF of the Executive Summary of the report here (or visit https://crfs.arizona.edu/publications). Hard copies of the report are available upon request (email Laurel Bellante at bellante@arizona.edu
  • Kinkaid, E., Owens, G., and Bellante, L. 2021. Tucson Opinion: COVID-19 impacts demonstrate why Southern Arizona needs more farmers. Arizona Daily Star July 17, 2021. Access the article here

 

LAB MEMBERS

Laurel Bellante

Laurel Bellante

Dr. Laurel Bellante is assistant professor of practice and director of the BA in Food Studies in the School of Geography, Development and Environment (SGDE) and assistant director of the UA Center for Regional Food Studies. Laurel is a human-environment geographer specializing in global environmental change, sustainable food systems, and agrarian questions in both the United States and Mexico. She uses a political ecology approach to connect what is happening in people’s kitchens, farms, and communities to larger political economic and environmental changes occurring regionally, nationally, and globally. Laurel’s research is centered on understanding and supporting the creation of more just and sustainable food systems. In the US-Mexico border region, Laurel has researched organic farming networks, linkages between poverty and climate change, food waste reduction strategies, and food justice and food sovereignty initiatives. Laurel also participates as a board member of Tucson City of Gastronomy. You can email Laurel at bellante@arizona.edu.

 

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Gigi Owen

 

Dr. Gigi Owen is a research scientist with the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) program. CLIMAS supports transdisciplinary and participatory climate research and is housed in the Arizona Institutes for Resilience (AIR) at the University of Arizona. As a qualitative social scientist with training in geography and political ecology, Gigi’s research interests center on interactions between humans and their environments. Her current research involves understanding if and how local adaptation strategies help people address impacts of climate change. She has worked on air, land, and water quality issues across the Arizona-Sonora border region and spent two years studying the ecology of desert grasslands in Sonora, Mexico. More information about Gigi is on the CLIMAS website or you can email her at gigi@arizona.edu.

 

Eden Kinkaid Headshot

Eden Kinkaid

 

 

Eden Kinkaid is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Arizona. Eden’s research is broadly concerned with changing geographies of food and agriculture, with a particular focus on sustainable agriculture. Eden has conducted ethnographic fieldwork on issues of agrarian change, agricultural development, and the shift to organic agriculture in Uttarakhand, India. Eden’s most recent research focuses on the impacts of COVID-19 on Tucson’s food system. In addition to these projects, Eden pursues a variety of interests in human geography through their research and writing, including geographic research methods, queer and feminist geographies, geographic education, and geographic theory. For more about Eden’s research, visit their website, follow them on Twitter (@queergeog), or email them at ekinkaid@email.arizona.edu.

 

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Sarah Renkert

 

Sarah Renkert, PhD candidate in the School of Anthropology and Graduate Research Associate, the University of Arizona.

 

 

 

 

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Emma Lawlor

 

 

Emma Lawlor is a PhD candidate in the School of Geography, Development, and Environment at the University of Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Destiche is a first-year student in the Master's in Development Practice program at the University of Arizona and a Coverdell Research Fellow with the Center for Regional Food Studies for AY2021-22. Before coming

to the University of Arizona, Chris’s early career has been marked by service-work devoted to furthering social and environmental causes. Directly after receiving his degree in Anthropology with a focus on Latin American Studies from the University of Georgia, Chris worked on a food security campaign with the Public Interest Network. He then transitioned into conservation-work with the National Park Service, working on a native seed initiative in the Grand Canyon and exotic species removal in Yellowstone. He later joined the Peace Corps as an agriculture volunteer, where he worked cooperatively with Indigenous Maya farmers to promote sustainable agriculture. Seeing first-hand the disastrous effects of climate change on rural Guatemalan communities and their connection to migration inspired him to pursue a degree in Development Practices.

 

 

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Shelby Thompson

 

Shelby Thompson, Pima County Food Alliance and AZ Health Zone - CENS