Went to bed feeling hungry, woke up hungry, been hungry all day. Feeling a bit more groggy than usual and thinking how I enjoy sleeping even more cause when you are asleep you do not feel the hunger. I am looking at all the food around me and desperately craving to eat more, to break this awful, cruel diet.
So in my work as a community food developer, first and foremost is the understanding that food insecurity is a result of income insecurity. The programs that I run, like community kitchens, bulk food buy, food workshops, school gardening, community meal programs all help to improve food access and food literacy and hopefully help to decrease food insecurity, but ultimately we need social policy as advocated by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and others that provides for a minimum basic and dignified standard of living – affordable housing, living wages, universal dental and childcare, to name a few basics. To this end, our work must include advocating for social change and food justice, much like what Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshias in their book Food Justice understand as “representing a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities”. This is a necessary refocusing that creates new opportunities in our work for a deeper analysis of structural inequality in the food system and connection of the food movement to broader social movements.
Also check out Kirsten Cadieux’s and Rachel Slocum’s article What Does it Mean to Do Food Justice? who describe four key points of intervention necessary in transforming food systems. These include: inequity, exchange, land and labour.
An example that illustrates well a transformative food justice practice is the work of the US organization Growing Food and Justice Initiative (GFJI) “aimed at dismantling racism and empowering low-income and communities of color through sustainable and local agriculture”. Their work is foremost validated through an ant-racist framework recognizing relations of power and privilege as they confront race and class inequity. GFJI also provides leadership, training and empowerment supporting communities of color to engage in food system policy and advocacy (systems change) and more directly by creating meaningful employment opportunities in the food and agricultural sector for these communities through non-exploitative mechanisms of cooperation, equitable land access with sound environmental practices, and fair working relations valuing all labour.
The Growing Food and Justice Initiative illustrates the importance of engagement and empowerment of those communities most affected by food insecurity, giving them a strong voice to address systemic inequality and relations of power while also creating opportunities for direct control over one’s livelihood and food situation. This is transformative work that is rebuilding a new alternative food system based on dignity and communal self-reliance.
There is much work to do but change is certainly possible. But the first thing people need is food in their bellies so we all have the energy we need to reshape the society we want.