Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Phaedra C. Pezzullo

Second Advisor

Lisa A. Flores

Third Advisor

Karen L. Ashcraft

Fourth Advisor

Tiara R. Na'puti

Fifth Advisor

Peter Simonson


This dissertation explores the rhetorical and spatiotemporal relationships between food politics and gentrification in the contemporary U.S. developing city foodscape. Specifically, I explore a seemingly innocent, yet incredibly powerful key term for the food movement today: “access.” The concern over adequate food access for the food insecure has become a national conversation, as everyone from governments to corporations, non-profits to grassroots advocates, have organized interventions to bring healthy food to those most in need. In rapidly developing cities, however, these politics have become particularly complicated, as new food amenities often index or contribute to gentrification, including the displacement of the very people supposedly targeted for increased food access. Often mobilized through discursive frames of deficit—the “food desert,” the “nutritional wasteland,” the “unhealthy” body, or the “blighted” neighborhood—many food policy interventions discursively construct scarce space and, therefore, conclude the solution is that these spaces need to be filled with food amenities (stores, markets, and more). The trouble, however, is in articulations of food access, legacies of ecological, colonial, racial, and class-based inequity are smoothed over in favor of a future that may not include many long-time residents. Further, the voices of marginalized communities most impacted, too often, are ignored. My analysis traverses relations between national, municipal, and grassroots interventions, focusing more specifically on development and environmental (in)justice in northeast Denver, Colorado. I utilize mixed-methods—including textual analysis of food access maps, public policy, and media, as well as rhetorical field methods through participant observation and interviews—to trace discursive articulations of “access” and the imaginative politics of food systems change. Drawing on an interdisciplinary cultural studies perspective, my analysis is situated at the conjuncture in which U.S. food politics and gentrification collide. In addition to critiquing dominant food movement discourses, I also identify counterhegemonic organizing that resists food gentrification through constituting a relational, intersectional food justice movement. Their advocacy critically interrupts dominant discourses to organize around abundance, fosters fusion between issues and experiences of violence to hear a wider range of voices, and remaps the city in the hopes of creating a more just food future.


Advisor 6: Joe Bryan