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UW-Madison Students Study Inequalities, Food Deserts in South Madison

A recent article from Madison 365 discusses a class offered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that studies food deserts in Madison and has students interact with programs in Madison that aim to combat this issue. A unique feature of this course is its face-to-face, hands on component, which has students volunteering at different organizations and interacting with other volunteers, some of whom are former inmates.

The course, which is called “Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison,” is “working to improve access to healthy food via sustainable, urban agriculture” and does so by having the fourteen students enrolled in the course collaborate with organizations around Madison. According to the article, this course started as a project that began in 2013 with a grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

The project, in conjunction with the course, aims to “understand and combat racial discrimination and food insecurity by working with community leaders. It was designed to address inequities in South Madison’s current food system, while at the same time establishing employment opportunities for former inmates.”

Students volunteer at food kitchens, community dinners, and other organizations in South Madison as a way to interact with those experiencing food injustice as well as formerly incarcerated individuals. One student in the course says of the experience, “I found it extremely rewarding to be able to sit with men with whom I superficially had very little in common with and be able to talk openly about difficult issues regarding race and incarceration. Seeing their willingness to bring us into an intimate discussion about issues that affect them so personally was humbling.”

While food deserts and issues of accessing fresh food might not seem to be directly related to Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, it is hard to ignore the fact that amidst all the food inequality in South Madison, African American adults in Dane County have been arrested at rates of more than eight times than the rate of arrests for whites (according to the article). The convergence of poverty, inequality, and racial injustice in South Madison is manifest in both the food desert status of South Madison as well as the rates of arresting African Americans in Dane County.

To read the article from Madison 365, click here.