Urban Renewal, Gentrification and Food Insecurity in Asheville’s Southside Neighborhood

Erin Daniell


Asheville, North Carolina is well known as a city packed with fantastic restaurants and local food. Yet in this land of apparent abundance, many of its citizens lack consistent, healthy food sources to sustain their lives. Understanding the root causes of this paradox is a major impetus behind this visual ethnographic project. The project will focus on a traditionally African American Asheville neighborhood called Southside, which underwent significant redevelopment when an urban renewal project was carried out in the neighborhood in the 1970s. Prior to urban renewal, the neighborhood boasted 7 grocery stores. Today it is classified as a food desert. The central inquiry of this research will explore the long-term impacts of urban renewal on long-time and new residents of Southside, seeking to understand their evolving sense of place as Southside transitions into a new period of gentrification today and their relationship with food as a result of living in a food desert. The research will be conducted through interviews with residents and observations of the community while working on various community projects relating to local food access and sustainability issues. This project will build upon my previous archival research, which examined 100 years of food access data and analyzed food security/insecurity trends in the neighborhood prior to, during and after urban renewal. My research exposed a correlation between the redevelopment of the neighborhood and the loss of its grocery stores. Drawing upon the researchers’ photography skills, the ethnographic study will be illustrated with portraits of residents. It is expected that this project will provide a new understanding of the long-term impacts of urban renewal on the individual lives of residents of the Southside community as they experience daily life within a food desert.


Urban Renewal; Gentrification; Food Insecurity

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