Tommy Bleasdale Ph.D. has published academic papers and popular articles about food justice movements and urban agriculture in Phoenix, Arizona. Working closely with practitioners over the last seven years, he has both observed and taken part in multiple aspects of local food system establishment, from gardening to policy creation.

Dr. Bleasdale is an active participant in many local food movements. He helps shape urban and just community-based food systems using the best information available. By fusing the knowledge of academia with the experience of practitioners he crafts material to meet the needs of a community.





It is my belief that I cannot understand what is happening in the present if I don't have an understanding of what happened in the past. My historical work focuses on two projects.

The first project is a web-based timeline of historical changes in South Phoenix. I worked for the Urban Vulnerability to Climate Change grant (NSF Grant No. GEO-0816168). Part of that project was to examine changes over time in the environment, socioeconomics and land cover of South and Central South Phoenix. This is a synthesis project that draws upon diverse sets of researchers, representing both the physical and the social sciences. The timeline uses excerpts from their cumulated works to develop an image of change over time in the community.

Another student put together a museum exhibit, which was displayed at a community center in the neighborhoods. There is also a brief video of that students work on its own page in the timeline. The timeline is meant to be an educational tool for both students and an introduction and resource for researchers who are interested in taking a holistic look at many different topics that have shaped a community over time. All entries are extensively cited so researchers can further research any topic or entry that interests them.

The second project is a paper about the history of farming, gardening and historical local food movements and food justice movements in Central City South and South Mountain both of which are in south Phoenix.

When I began to think about community food security in conjunction with urban agriculture projects I started to wonder when and how these communities had become food insecure in the first place.

Much to my surprise when I started poking at some of the history books relating to my study site I found the area was rooted in a long agricultural tradition. Furthermore, there was a long history of hunger and malnutrition in my study area. I suddenly realized that scientific literature relating to contemporary "food deserts" and access to healthy food was deeply ahistorical. Food access researchers were uncovering large areas of the US in which healthy food was relatively more difficult to obtain than in other, generally wealthier, areas. However, what food access researchers are finding is not necessarily new. At least some of the communities labeled "food deserts" today were deeply food-insecure in the past. Further, the processes which created historical food insecurity in these communities were still at work, perpetuating food insecure neighborhoods into the present day.