Food Justice Movement

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"One of the most significant forms of innovation and change resides in the food sector, led by groups that have embraced the cause of what they are calling “food justice.” These include groups like the Holyoke, Massachusetts Nuestras Raices organization that links inner city community gardens, environmental justice organizing, and a community economic development approach; the Philadelphia-based group The Food Trust, which helped pull together a major statewide policy initiative to increase the ability of inner city food stores to provide fresh and healthy food throughout the state; or the National Farm to School Network ( which is helping transform school food environments in thousands of school districts, including in low income schools where the new fresh, local, and healthy food in school cafeterias has been a breakthrough in changing community food environments. Such food justice groups have begun to identify alternatives to the dominant food system and have positioned themselves as a force for social change in the U.S. and throughout the world. The interpretation of food justice, to be sure, can be complex and nuanced, but it is also a simple and direct concept—justice for all in the food system, whether producers, farmworkers, processors, workers, eaters, or communities. It is also about a respect for the systems that support how and where our food is grown—an ethic of place regarding the land, the air, the water, the plants, the animals, and the environment. The groups that embrace food justice vary in agendas, constituencies, and focus, but all share a commitment to equity and fairness in relation to food system impacts and seek a different, more just, and sustainable way for food to be grown, produced, made accessible, and eaten.

Food justice is both a local and a global idea, from the right to food to support of local food systems. It emphasizes the importance of a community value rather than a commodity value to food. And it provides an important new dimension to alternative food advocacy by helping it answer accusations about being just a niche approach. It does this by arguing that alternatives can and should be inclusive and system-wide while also focusing directly on the profound disparities and injustices of the food system. Through these arguments, food justice has been able to influence the different segments of the food movement, whether the local and community food groups, the slow food approach, sustainable agriculture, or anti-hunger strategies. At the same time, food justice becomes an important entry point for other social movements and social justice groups who have come to realize that food is embedded in the issues and experiences that they seek to address, whether at the work place, with housing, transportation, the environment, or in the communities in which we live." (


Attending a food politics workshop

Report from Dave Belden:

"A friend reported on a meeting about food politics workshop she attended (also reported here in The Nation), in which food activists initially got across each other somewhat and then, she said, truly engaged and heard each other. This took place when two different meetings were combined: one by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, concerned about the lack of good affordable food for low income people in the city of Detroit, and the other by mostly white, often college educated urban farmers, who are very active in Detroit and other major cities. My friend was inspired by the way they were coming together. A couple of old white Marxists tried to take over the meeting, she reported, telling the assembled they were not pursuing the Revolution; one of them wouldn’t give up the mike until the whole crowd slow-clapped her, drowning her words, and she gave up.

This seemed highly positive to me! The food movement is very attractive–it gives joy to people as well as helping them oppose agribusiness, it connects people to nature, to the deep satisfaction of growing food, to the community and to eating together–no wonder it is growing! The same happened with the back to the land and communes movement of the 60s and 70s, but if this new wave can connect with low income people’s needs in the cities, then it becomes attractive to many more people in poverty as well as to middle class people. One speaker talked about how in the UK the government has to provide space (an allotment) to every person who wants one (see here and here). When I was growing up urban allotments were almost entirely a working class phenomenon, since middle class people aspired to having a home and attached garden of their own. The local government’s responsibility to provide them was based on legislation starting in the 19th century. It hasn’t demolished agribiz in the UK yet, but as a new movement in this country urban farming has energy and exciting possibilities.

Like the localization movement (favoring the growth of local markets, and sometimes including other means of exchange than dollars) and the cooperative ownership movement, the new food movement offers people the chance to do creative work, in teamwork, that is producing goods and services the community needs. There may not be much money in it but that’s not the point or the satisfaction." (