Through her work on Black geographies, Dr. Ashanté Reese is using her research and storytelling to help advance efforts to help communities access food more sustainably.

A Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Reese is also the author of Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington D.C. and the co-editor of Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice.

Her first award-winning book, Black Food Geographies, explores the structural forces that determine food access in urban areas through a study of the Deanwood neighborhood in Washington, D.C. In Black Food Matters, contributors highlight the ways that Black communities are pushing for more sustainable, equitable food systems and protecting Black food culture. Reese’s own essay in the collection explores everyday Black food entrepreneurship.

“When I’m doing research, I try to do two things. I’m very interested in scale and the politics of scale,” Reese tells Food Tank. At the individual level, Reese connects with people living in the communities she is studying. This may involve cooking with others, learning about formative food memories, and accompanying them to the grocery store. This work allows her to tell stories that, she says, “don’t make it on the map.”

The second thing Reese does is try to understand how people’s experiences fit into broader historical changes, cultural changes, and movement spaces. “We can be overly corrective by only focusing on the positive things,” she explains. “And so for me, those individual stories always have to be contextualized with a larger structural analysis.”

Read the full article about food access by Elena Seeley at Food Tank.