The development of autonomy is a key characteristic among adolescence, which can result in positive and negative psycho-social outcomes. Research suggests that Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) is an effective approach towards encouraging adolescent autonomy through a community context by engaging individuals in a research and action group project focused on improving upon socio-political issues within a local community. This study aims to determine how YPAR can support the development of adolescents in becoming independent change-makers within their local communities. Building on existing literature on YPAR, it asks: what is YPAR’s role in encouraging autonomy among adolescents and how does it influence the learning process of a socio-political issue within the context of a youth-led research project on food insecurity. In this context, autonomy is defined as the capacity for a person to have a sense of control over their own life according to their own authentic motives, free from the influence from any nefarious or controlling external parties. Based on a social constructivist approach, focus groups were conducted with adolescent members of a YPAR-based after-school program, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB), located in an urban neighborhood in Southern California. Participants were divided into two sample groups (new vs. experienced members) and were asked about their perceptions of YPAR and food insecurity in a community context. Analysis of the responses observed participants’ perceptions about YPAR in that it encourages the development of civically engaged communicators, consists of challenges in its utilization, and allows youth to envision the complexities of a socio-political issue. The results indicate that YPAR is a powerful approach to adolescent development that potentially influences cognitive and emotional autonomy and can be utilized to educate on a range of issues impacting a community. On this basis, it is recommended that YPAR be considered for adolescent development that incorporates the realistic contexts of a community because of its ability to not only encourage the self-governance of individuals, but empowers them to make changes to improve their community. Future research is needed to identify YPAR’s adaptability in supporting the diverse contexts of adolescents and various socio-political issues.