Fertile Ground Project
Inspiring Dialogue about Food Access
Jackson, Mississippi is in the process of reimagining what food access is within a southern-urban context. While food access is a challenge for many American cities, southern cities like Jackson, the state capital and largest urban center, have historical influences embedded into its food system that make it inequitable, unhealthy, and unsustainable.
Mississippi has a complex relationship with food. During slavery and sharecropping periods food was used as a tool of control, today urban food swamps are considered as another form of control. “Big Food” controls most of the Mississippi food system, showcasing itself through convenient store fast food urbanism and monocultural landscapes. This structure is partly responsible for Mississippi being the most food insecure state in the country and plays a major role in creating the Mississippi public health crisis.
In 2017, Jackson was named the fattest city in America, ranking in the top percentile for lacking access to healthy food, low fruit and vegetable consumption, diabetes, high blood pressure, and physically inactive adults. These metrics received national attention after the new mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, accepted a challenge from Pamela Anderson to go vegan. Last year, when Mayor Lumumba took office he boldly announced plans for Jackson to become the most radical city in the world.
Fertile Ground expands on the mayor’s vision through a creative lens that identifies fundamental issues with southern-urban food access. We plan to host a city-wide exhibition deploying tactical art and urbanism strategies across areas experiencing food access issues with installations and performances that explore food sovereignty, nutrition, domestic hunger, and the agrarian landscape. Each site is a unique typology with varying amounts of existing investment. Our planning department is collecting data from the exhibition to form a research-lab that changes policy, community engagement, and development approaches for delivering urban food access.