Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Gail Carlson

Second Advisor

Lyn Brown

Third Advisor

Daniel Abrahams


Food security is a global issue. As food insecurity increases, it is continually important to find solutions. Food insecurity in the United States in children is visible is partially addressed via school programs, like the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). This project explores food inequity in the Alternative High School in Waterville, Maine, which participates in the NSLP and SBP to reduce food insecurity. This project used a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) process to explore school meals and, to a larger extent, food equity from the Alternative High School students’ perspectives as co-researchers. Through an extensive participatory process, a student survey, and student conversations, this paper shows that the taste and quality of the school meals leads to a lack of consumption of the meals. Based on these findings, the students made a protest poster and a booklet with the survey findings, to help the people in power understand the changes they were asking for. Additionally, this paper analyses the YPAR process' ability to increase student voice and agency, improve understanding of the food system, and facilitate learning through participation in the YPAR research process. While there are programs in place to help students improve their food security, there is a need to further address food inequity in the school food system in Waterville. Overall, this analysis suggests that implementing YPAR projects can help to increase student voice and agency, while empowering students to make changes in their own lives by speaking out and demanding better school meals.


Participatory Action Research, Youth, Equity, Community, Food Equity, School Meals

Included in

Food Studies Commons