Katie Lynn Cantwell Butterfield

Research interests:

My research interests are health disparities/social determinants of health; quantitative methods and analysis; food inequality; race, class, and gender; and rural health. Currently, I study the accessibility of community gardens across the United States and their potential to alleviate food insecurity and food desert conditions among different demographics while improving overall health and well-being.

More broadly, I'm interested in how race, class, and gender shape local food environments and who has access to healthy food, with a particular focus on improving food security and diet-related health. My research emphasizes the importance of local food environments for individual food access, but also speaks to the need to dismantle broader systems of inequality within the global food system.


Butterfield, Katie L. 2020. “Neighborhood Composition and Community Garden Locations: The Effect of Ethnicity, Income, and Education” Sociological Perspectives. (doi.org/10.1177/0731121420908902) (Accepted Version)

Community gardens provide food, health, and sustainability benefits to surrounding communities. Research demonstrates that low-income or ethnic-minority communities develop gardens to resist divestment and provide access to healthy food, whereas white or highly-educated communities develop gardens to address local sustainability concerns. Missing from this discussion is a comprehensive picture of the relationship between neighborhood composition and community garden locations. Using GrowNYC and GreenThumb’s 2014 survey of New York City community gardens, this study employs negative binomial and spatial regression methods to examine this relationship. Findings reveal increased numbers of gardens in communities with higher aggregate concentrations of: 1. black and/or Latino residents, 2. lower-income residents, and 3. well-educated residents, regardless of ethnicity or income. In keeping with qualitative research on motivations for garden development, this study provides crucial quantitative metrics suggesting the diversity of neighborhoods with community gardens and supports their inclusion in urban public policy and city planning.
Butterfield, Katie L. and A. Susana Ramírez. 2020. "Framing Food Access: Do Community Gardens Inadvertently Reproduce Inequality?" Health Education and Behavior. (doi.org/10.1177/1090198120950617) (Accepted Version)

Background. Alternative food programs have been proposed as solutions to food insecurity and diet-related health issues. However, some of the most popular programs—farmers markets and community-supported agriculture—overwhelmingly serve White and upper-middle-class individuals, exacerbating food security and health disparities. One explanation for the mismatch is the way in which alternative food programs are framed: Language used to encourage participation may reflect priorities of upper-middle-class and White populations who create and run these programs while lacking resonance with food-insecure populations. This literature, however, lacks consideration of how lower-cost, more participatory programs—community gardens—are framed. We therefore explore the framing of community gardens through a quantitative content analysis of the descriptions, missions, and goals provided by community garden managers across Minnesota (N = 411).
Results. Six frames were consistently present in the community garden statements: greater good, community orientation, healthy food access, food donation, self-empowerment, and symbolic food labels. Greater good and community orientation were significantly more likely to be used than any other frames.
Conclusions. Taken together, our findings suggest that community gardens may be welcoming toward a diversity of participants but still have room to improve the inclusivity of their frames. The common use of a community orientation suggests the unique ability of community gardens among alternative food programs to benefit Black, Latino, and working-class populations. However, the most common frame observed was “greater good,” suggesting one mechanism through which community gardens, like other types of alternative food programs, may be reproducing inequality through alienation of food-insecure populations.


Butterfield, Katie L. "Community Gardens, Structural Inequalities, and Health" (Dissertation Project; Chair: Dr. Zulema Valdez)
Butterfield, Katie L., Brittany Oaks, and Zulema Valdez "Community Gardening in the United States"
Ramírez, A. Susana, Katie L. Butterfield, and Zulema Valdez "Perceptions of inequality, health, and attributions of responsibility for chronic disease: A mixed methods study of class, ethnicity, and neighborhood differences"
Butterfield, Katie L., Irenee Beattie, and Wendy Puquirre. "Straddling Two Worlds: Does Visiting Home Help or Harm First Generation Students' College Engagement?"


2019 - “Community Gardens, Investments, and Health Outcomes” 2019 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Round Table 26. Places, Housing, and Health
2019 - “Health Benefits of Urban Vs. Rural Community Gardens” 2019 Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociology Society
2019 - “Community Gardens, Structural Inequalities, and Health: Urban Vs. Rural Community Gardens” Joint Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Food & Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS)
2018 - “Community Gardens, Inequality, and Health” UC Merced Blum Center Summer Institute
2017 - “Race, Class, and Community Garden Locations” Lyceum Lunchtime Speaker Series, UC Merced Health Sciences Research Institute
2016 - “The Effects of Racial and Class Neighborhood Composition on Community Garden Outcomes” Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, poster presentation
2015 - “The Effects of Race and Class on Community Garden Locations.” Annual Meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association
2015 - “Straddling Two Worlds: Does Visiting Home Help or Harm First Generation Students' College Engagement?,” with Irenee Beattie and Wendy Puquirre. Annual Conference of the Sociology of Education Association