Ambient struggling: food, chronic disease, and spatial isolation among the urban poor

Adam Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper uses the survival strategies of food shelf clients to explore how food access, chronic disease, and spatial isolation shape the lives of low- and no- income urban citizens. The abundant availability of unhealthy food intersects with the presence of long-term health conditions to create a marginalized urban space where low quality commodity food is available, but exacerbates existing health conditions, is difficult to access, and does little to create food security. To survive, clients have normalized a sustenance strategy of going to multiple food serving sites, carrying food long-distances and using SNAP benefits to make ends meet. However, this nourishment strategy is time-consuming and unsafe, demanding that people put themselves in precarious positions and push their bodies farther physically than is healthy. These food procurement strategies exacerbate their marginalization. Qualitative data from food shelf users is used to develop a theory of ambient struggling wherein the struggle for food access is unhealthy and time-consuming, making it difficult to improve their standard of living.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1105-1116
Number of pages12
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research was conducted under under the University of Minnesota Internal Review Board study (Grant No. 00014033).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Food insecurity
  • Health
  • Hunger
  • Spatial isolation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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