Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Philip Reeder


embeddedness, lower income, marketness, SNAP, social justice, sustainability


Despite heightened interest in creating local food systems that enhance health of ecologies, economies, and all members of communities, the public space of farmers' markets is far less than inherently equitable. This is particularly concerning given America's unprecedented crisis of food hardship and related disease, which disproportionately affects lower income populations. This research addresses the social justice implications of SNAP (food stamp) operations for locally oriented food systems. Pioneering practices of three of Florida's SNAP-authorized farmers' markets, and the attitudes and behaviors of one-hundred-seventy-six market patrons, were explored through customer surveys, market manager interviews, and environmental assessments. Qualitative and quantitative results uncovered associations between SNAP at the farmers' market and heightened embeddedness. This work advances the embeddedness concept by applying it to the understudied population of lesser advantaged consumers for which the interplay of marketness and embeddedness is particularly relevant to food purchasing decisions.

Qualitative results showed success in SNAP operations centered on extending the reach of healthy foods to greater share of community, enhancing local farm income, and repositioning farmers' markets from their reputation as exclusive and expensive. Despite being heterogeneous place-making spaces with unique socio-cultural qualities, the markets shared commonality in their EBT operations and strong mission to serve the local SNAP population. Nonetheless, capacity for implementing and sustaining SNAP operations appears contingent upon innovative strategies and long-range synergistic efforts. Quantitative results uncovered several benefits in attaching SNAP to farmers' markets: expanded diversity of patron demographics, strengthened market-shopping behavior, diminished tension between economic and non-economic in food valuation, and fortification of the market as a social space for effecting change.

Much remains to be understood regarding consumer values tied to local food systems, and the impact of SNAP operations on embedded market exchange. Hence, it is premature to predict whether SNAP operations will indeed enable farmers' markets to serve as a transformative mechanism for addressing the social justice arm of sustainability in the developing, alternative food system. Nonetheless, the discoveries made herein hint at the viability for SNAP to better position farmers' markets aiming to strengthen food system justice; and in so doing, bolster the role of farmers' markets in helping communities move towards their sustainability objectives.