~ The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute
Photo credit: AP/David Adame
Lately, in food and gardening circles, there has been more and more talk of food justice. Even before the severity of the economic meltdown began to be apparent, local food, clean food, and slow food movements were being pushed from within and from without to address issues of access to healthy food and justice for farm workers. At the big Slow Food USA gathering in September, lack of attention to labor rights, food elitism, and food justice in general were rightly called out. These issues were finally brought to the Slow Food USA table last fall, but people have been organizing around them for many years around the world.
I think that I first became aware of the concept of "food justice" when I read World Hunger: Twelve Myths by Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins for a class in college. ReadingTwelve Myths was one of those pivotal experiences in life -- it provided a lens through which I have seen the world ever since. Beginning to understand the ways that food and social justice are related was similar for me to acquiring the lens of feminist theory: it gave me tools which with to understand the world around me and forever altered the way I would process information.
Growing up in a family where Cesar Chavez was a household hero meant I had some awareness of farmworker rights from early on. In the time I spent working as a union organizer, I began to understand labor issues around food -- namely the systematic violations of the basic human rights of the people who grow and harvest the food on our plates.
Twelve Myths, and the work of Food First: The Institute for Food and Development Policy, with which Lappe has been associated for many years, are still critical sources for me when thinking about the politics of food. Farmworkers' rights organizations (several of which are listed in the resources at the bottom of this post) continue to expand my understanding of labor and human rights issues related to food.
Photo credit: Farmworker Support Committee
My participation in the local food movement has been largely driven by a kind of personal "triple bottom line" -- wanting to eat the healthiest food possible; wanting to make the most ecologically responsible food choices; and wanting to know the people who grow and harvest my food and value their work, which produces the food on my plate.
It has been encouraging to see the new attention being paid to food justice issues from within the local/slow/organic food movements lately. Coincidentally or not, several "food challenge" projects have also cropped up lately to document the difficulty of feeding the family in the economic system that we live in -- particularly in light of the declines in wages and employment coupled with ever-escalating food prices. Two that I'm aware of are:
These food challenge diaries expose the injustice of hunger in lands of plenty (Canada and the US) and draw attention to the economic realities that so many people are up against in their day-to-day food lives.
It seems that the recent economic downturn, which we're told by President Obama could well turn into an economic catastrophe of Great Depression-proportions, has created an environment where the value of growing food, community food security, and food justice are on the tips of tongues all over the country.
Four Food Groups of the Apocalypse on Food Justice Blog
Photo credit: Student Action with Farmworkers
Other reccomended food justice resources: