Institutional Racism, Educational Inequalities, and Poverty

Tracking the Geneology of Food Insecurity in Florida, U.S.


Laura Kihlström & Dalila D’Ingeo

Despite notions of food insecurity as an issue that crosscuts American society, African Americans are almost twice as likely to be food insecure compared to the national average. This mixed methods paper provides an anthropological and historical perspective to track the ‘geneology’ of food insecurity among African Americans in Florida, U.S.
Using critical race theory, we argue that slavery and the Jim Crow era have shaped the food environment in the contemporary South through racist policies and violence, affecting the food security status of African Americans across generations. In particular, we claim that institutional racism caused a cross-generational cycle of poverty through deprivation of educational resources among African Americans.
We compare and contrast historical data on educational inequalities in 67 Florida counties with contemporary data on food insecurity and poverty in the same counties. The findings show that counties that invested the least in the education of African Americans are overwhelmingly located in the Florida panhandle. These so called ‘cotton counties’ are same geographical areas in which food insecurity today is more prevalent and persistent compared to the rest of the state. We conclude that equitable and ‘secure’ food systems are not achievable today without addressing broader social inequalities that have historically affected African Americans in the U.S. South.