Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Jamie Shinn

Committee Member

Bradley Wilson

Committee Member

Cynthia Gorman


Urban agriculture (UA) is part of the broader alternative food movement and a potential avenue through which to “do” food justice work. UA projects in the urban Global North are frequently motivated by social and food justice goals. Despite these guiding ideals, UA projects in America are rife with internal contradictions, including those related to racial inequalities, complex gentrification dynamics, and funding realities. In this paper, I employ the conceptual frameworks of food justice and urban political ecology to consider how gentrification and UA project funding structures affect five specific UA projects in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. While the loss of industry and population throughout North Philadelphia in the 1980s and 1990s heavily impacted Kensington, the modern-day neighborhood faces two seemingly-opposing challenges: entrenched poverty and rapidly accelerating gentrification. The twin influences of poverty and gentrification make Kensington a uniquely compelling neighborhood in which to study UA projects and their complex relationships to gentrification and funding structures. To this end, qualitative interviews were conducted with UA project managers, volunteers, and supportive staff associated with five specific UA sites in Kensington selected to represent an array of grassroots, nonprofit, and for-profit UA projects. A number of patterns have emerged through this case study comparison, including how funding structures (grassroots, nonprofit, or for-profit) influence the formation and persistence of UA projects, the differential outcomes of gentrification pressures on UA projects (often along racial lines), and the how UA projects’ organizational structures and guiding principles determine the existence and/or realization of food justice goals within the project. The study concludes with a call for additional research into the complex relationship between UA projects and gentrification, including greater awareness of the influence of race within this relationship.