Designing Food Systems to Sustain Urban Communities

Walking tour in Manhattan's Chinatown

We engage design thinking with scientific research through community forums to investigate and promote sustainable food systems in an iconic urban neighborhood, Manhattan’s Chinatown. We argue that this approach has the power to contextualize global issues into place-based, personal, and visceral experiences to emotionally inspire people to act. Food is integral to any community, and culturally appropriate foods are fundamental to food security and equity, yet the underlying system that generates these essential outcomes face many challenges. We consider how contestation over the cultural identity and use of street space of a neighborhood challenge the sustainability of urban food systems. We build upon previous research to map the relationships between highly visual elements of food culture’s street life and the invisible networks of trade that enable it. We’ve hosted walks, workshops, and forums about Chinatown to engage in an iterative process of research, design, consensus building, and collaboration that is at the heart of community engaged research. Our project aims to bring perspectives of this immigrant community into public and academic discourse about sustainable food systems to enrich interdisciplinary research and translate it into practice. We offer this approach as a method for research and advocacy that can be replicated in any community.

Mapping Chinatown's Food System

Cultural and Ecological Sustainability

Home Grown