I entered the food justice movement two years ago at the Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society conference, as a bright-eyed convert from the green jobs movement. I learned my bearings in bits and spurts along the way, with help from a thriving community that willingly accepted me and now calls me one of its own.
I’ve met dozens of food justice activists across the United States, from Ithaca, NY to Los Angeles, CA. The common thread between us lies within our desire to see every child, elder, mother and father eating food that truly nourishes. We are warriors of the body and spirit, working in a field that connects the earth to our bodies in the most basic of ways. We acknowledge the significance of cultural heritage in our relationship to food, and the ancient recipes connecting kitchens across the centuries. We stand in solidarity with those most bruised by the food system, prioritizing their needs. In this moment, food justice is preserving the soul behind the way community eats.
Now, Food Access Is All The Rage
When Michele Obama planted her White House garden in early 2009, it changed the stage for food justice in America. Before, we did not have a mainstream presence. The Food Network was one of the only windows into discussions about food, and access to food was rarely (if ever) mentioned. Now, the Associated Press has a story every day from the “food deserts” of America, Jamie Oliver has a Food Revolution, and Will Allen is a household name.
This increased attention on food access is a great boon to the food justice movement. Food access is a core concern of food justice. Everyone should have the ability to find fresh, healthy food in his or her community.
The First Lady has breathed new life into the struggle for equal access to food. The food justice movement now has millions of new supporters—a grand opportunity to transform the food system.
Food Justice As A Movement
The food justice movement has a new task: build a relationship with our new supporters.
We must have a message for the mother who recently read the article on food access in an airport magazine, or the Rotary Club that saw a commercial for the “Let’s Move” campaign. We must show ourselves as a unified force that has a plan for the food system.
And we do have a plan—in addition to food access, we also want help preserve the food traditions of historically disenfranchised communities. This would entail a radical shift of circumstances for low-income communities. It would mean access to culturally appropriate foods, and a conversation with the USDA Dietary Guidelines; it would mean access to well-paying green jobs that allow mothers time and money to cook meals with their families; it would mean economic redevelopment for neighborhoods lacking startup capital for cultural food entrepreneurs.
If the food justice movement takes a new, stronger stand for cultural food practices, we can create the reality we have been working toward for so long. We can economically, socially, and spiritually revitalize communities through good food.