Foraging for a Better Future: Feasibility of Wild Edibles as a Supplemental Sustainable Food Option

Zachary M. Bomes, Gettysburg College
Jasmine T. Colahan, Gettysburg College
Erin C. Palmer, Gettysburg College
Juliet M. Pawelski, Gettysburg College

Environmental Studies Senior Thesis


Foraging, defined as the practice of searching for and gathering or harvesting food or provisions rather than growing domesticated plants, has emerged as an option to supplement existing methods of sustainable food production in the alternative food movement. This study aims to determine the challenges and potentials of foraging as a supplemental sustainable food option by analyzing its social, environmental, and economic implications. Using qualitative research methods to build on recent but limited work in this field, we employed an exploratory case study approach to capture foraging practices in rural, peri-urban, and urban environments. Grounded in semi-structured interviews with individuals in Gettysburg, Philadelphia, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania as well as New York, New York, the case studies also contextualized interview testimonies through attention to regulations instated in public green space used for foraging. Our research suggests that significant foraging challenges are those of food security and ecological impact while significant potentials of foraging include nutrition and community building implications. An additional web presence analysis suggests that foraging communities are especially apparent in urban areas, though missing in rural areas. While our results suggest that the act of foraging cannot feasibly enter into the mainstream as a sustainable food option due to issues of supply and legality, we encourage further studies to tease the rural, peri-urban, and urban differences apart.