What is the Food Justice Movement? How do I get involved?
November 13, 2014 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I've seen the Food Justice Movement referred to a lot but I don't have a clear idea of what it means. I'm also wondering what opportunities are out there.

Can anyone give me a primer, or direct me towards some good resources to learn more? Maybe a book recommendation or two? I stumble across the term sometimes because I'm interested in eating less meat/animal rights/healthy living, I've recently begun exploring gardening and have volunteered at a local community farm a couple of times, so I feel like I've dabbled in it (but don't really know anything yet!). I'm also wondering what kind of jobs and careers might exist that incorporate my interests. (I have a degree in the healthcare field, and had been drawn to the preventative/holistic side of health in my studies, but I sort of burnt out from what I saw in the healthcare system and am currently working in something unrelated.)

Basically, I hate a lot of aspects of how most of us eat. I think factory farming is ethically atrocious, I wish our society ate less meat, and I wish sugary and overprocessed foods weren't the default choice in a lot of settings. If you are involved in... something related to what I've written here, I would love to learn about your experiences! Thanks in advance.
posted by hummingbird to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Food justice is a sort of broad field that looks at issues like access to healthy food, socioeconomic factors (esp. poverty), food costs, and things like that. It can extend to healthy working conditions and just wages for all levels of food industry workers from fieldhands to restaurant staff, to healthy foods in schools, community gardening, being able to use food stamps at your local farmer's market, access to fresh and healthy food for seniors, animal welfare, food safety, sustainable ag, agroecology, etc.

It's late for me and I'm too tired to write much more, but check out what organizations your local food bank is partnering with, esp. in your closest major city. I think with your healthcare background, you could be a big asset to any organization doing this type of outreach. I got involved with this after almost two years of just scraping by, and being a food-bank regular due to Major Life Events piling on all at once.

I'm lucky in that my health improved enough for me to go back to work, and I just started a new job. While I was off work, I decided that I wanted my next job to focus more on doing some small bit of good in the world. Two books I found helpful were The Encore Career Handbook and Jobs That Matter.
posted by cardinality at 7:42 PM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's a couple of big slices in the food justice pie.
- Food access (ex: the issue of food deserts, mobile veggie trucks, food stamps, groups like Food Not Bombs) focuses on increasing consumer access to healthy and culturally appropriate food.
- Food sovereignty focuses on increasing a community's capacity to provide their own food and decide their own food priorities, especially producers/farmers capabilities. This can range from international trade issues (can Samoa ban the import of high fat food items like turkey tails in the name of public health?) to Native Hawaiian farmers working on heritage varieties of taro and sweet potato.

A great overall book, but an academic one, is Cultivating Food Justice edited by Julian Agyeman and Alison Alkon (link to video of Alkon's talk at Univ of Vermont on her more recent book on farmers markets).

The book especially focuses on the racial questions that sometimes get overlooked.
Where the food movement falls short, they argue, is in several of its basic assumptions, which are largely based on race and class. Specifically, the movement has very much limited itself to mostly white, middle-class people talking to other mostly white, middle-class people (“a monoculture of PLUs—people like us,” Agyeman told a group of Tufts undergraduates recently).

An example: the romanticizing of an agrarian past and the concept of agriculture as, essentially, recreation. Helping dig potatoes at your CSA might bring back pleasant memories of days with grandpa on the family farm—but not so much if your grandpa was a sharecropper or a migrant worker.

One essay in the book recounts the experiences of a college student working with urban teens who were sent on a field trip to pick fruit. “The director of the youth program had said it would be a good idea for the youth to ‘get their hands dirty’… [but the African-American youth] … resented the expectation to work not only for free, but also for white farmers,” writes contributor Julie Guthman, an associate professor at UC-Santa Cruz, in a piece titled “‘If They Only Knew’: The Unbearable Whiteness of Alternative Food.”

...the intent is not to drive a wedge in the food movement. The aim of the book is to look through many different lenses at food as a cultural issue and see ways that a bigger movement, a more powerful movement, can be realized(tufts.edu)
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:47 AM on November 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have a couple of friends who work in this area. Mainly with Food First, so they might be worth looking into.
posted by brundlefly at 6:37 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some book recommendations from my friend in the area:

Stuffed But Starved by Raj Patel

Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity by Frances Moore Lappe

Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice by Eric Holt-gimenez and Raj Patel

I hope those help!
posted by brundlefly at 6:58 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also some organizations worth looking into: Via Campesina, Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, Korean Women's Peasant Association, The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network...
posted by brundlefly at 7:04 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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