Inverting the Atlas: Geographically Based Food Security in Kalamazoo
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This experiment took place in Kalamazoo, Michigan, because it is where I live and eat. Rich archival records, first-hand knowledge of the contemporary landscape, and conversations about its past were accessible. The experiment was also a personal exploration of place, a way to investigate my surroundings. As far as the premise of this project, Kalamazoo’s food landscape is no more significant than any other mid-sized, rust-belt city. The changes that took place in Kalamazoo over the last century unfolded within and because of (and sometimes in spite of) broader historical shifts. Alone, each map does little to explain the era it represents. As a series, the maps illustrate the progression of consolidation and suburbanization, as it relates to geographically based food security. The maps clarify the effects of these shifts: the urban landscape that is the product of minute decisions, cultural attitudes, large-scale technological alterations, and political events. Because the premise of the project is rooted in urban communities’ reliance on grocery stores and supermarkets, I centered the mapping experiment on these vendors. I did not seek to present a comprehensive study of households’ food sources, of which the grocer is only one of many. But I have argued that groceries were a primary source of nutrition for Kalamazoo’s urban areas throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.