Purdue University Graduate School
Chiara Cervini final.pdf (1.15 MB)

Food Literacy and Justice in the United States and Italy

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posted on 2024-04-27, 15:02 authored by Chiara CerviniChiara Cervini

Scholars and activists in the fields of food justice and policy believe that our food system needs changing because it is unjust, unhealthy, and incapable of addressing the needs of consumers, especially poorer and more vulnerable consumers. But policy change has been halting at every level, from local to global. The emerging concept of food literacy is a promising avenue to improve health equity and achieve food justice. Food movements around the world have played a key role in organizing education campaigns for children and adults to improve food-related knowledge and behavior. However, political scientists have yet to fully explore 1) what strategies successful food movements use to get food literacy initiatives adopted, and 2) how adoption strategies and food literacy initiatives vary across countries with different food practices, policy processes, and cultural expectations about food and dining practices. This dissertation seeks to answer these questions through a comparative study of local-level youth food literacy initiatives inspired by Farm to School and Slow Food, leading food movements in the U.S. and Italy. Through qualitative interviews with key actors involved in food education and procurement, I explore the meaning of food literacy and how actors in the U.S. and Italy are using food education to expand knowledge of local food systems and, ultimately, to change those food systems. I find that to actors in both countries, food literacy means the knowledge that can help us understand and judge the complex interdependence between the processes, resources, and actors involved in producing and marketing the food we eat every day. Food literacy also empowers civic engagement: it can transform food consumers who want to see change into citizens who feel entitled to demand institutional change. The forms of governance usually seen in this context consist in voluntary, decentralized, local-level partnerships between local government and schools, civil society, food movement activists/volunteers, and local farmers.


Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship

Ross-Lynn Research Scholar Fund


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Political Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Patricia Boling

Additional Committee Member 2

Tara Grillos

Additional Committee Member 3

Leigh Raymond

Additional Committee Member 4

Swati Srivastava

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