Some alternative food movements have been criticized for ignoring racial and class inequalities. Since being able to access and buy healthy food is a financial and locational issue, many population groups have limited possibilities to maintain a healthy diet. Additionally, big corporations end up exploiting cheap labour in food production and food service industries. Here, we take a short look at the Food Justice movement, which mostly emerged with the belief that healthy food is a human right in response to food insecurity, economic pressures preventing communities’ access to healthy nutrition, farm labour work, land disputes, class issues, and public politics.
The Food Justice movement is empowerment of community, and coalition building among groups most negatively affected by the contemporary food production systems.
Not only do poorer communities have limited economical and geographical access to healthy foods, farm workers are disproportionately people of colour, immigrants and minorities while those who benefit from the system are predominantly white. Disadvantaged groups and communities are most likely to be harmed by current food production systems. Especially in the US, even though animal product facilities and food processing plants are mostly located in low-income and predominantly non-white areas, these facilities suppress local economies by concentrating profits into the hands of owners and managers rather than spreading them throughout the community.
Additionally, particularly in the presence of fast food restaurants, the characteristics of food environments are proven to greatly influence and contribute to obesity and major health disparities. In neighbourhoods that do not have access to markets and/or supermarkets because of proximity issues or prices, consumers are only left with convenience stores and fast food restaurants. According to David R. Brown and Luther Brewster of Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Florida, marginalised and low-income communities that do not have healthy food access can experience “a saturation of access to unhealthy food (e.g., fast-food, convenience and liquor stores, gas stations) characterized by high-calorie and high-sugar items”. Another reason that low-income communities mainly rely on convenience store foods, is that food insecurity requires food to last over a longer period of time. Processed foods do not require refrigeration and last longer than perishable foods. These environments enforce unhealthy behaviours amongst its residents.
The Food Justice movement works to inform about these inequalities, and focuses on fair-trade, local economy structures, affordability, sustainability, and justice. It promotes local and community-based initiatives through local food practices and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It aims to build community control through cooperatives, initiatives and organizing communities to ensure access to healthy, fresh, locally grown food and living wage jobs for all food system workers –at farms, factories, restaurants, in the food service and processing plants.
Brown, D. R. and Brewster, L. “The Food Environment is a Complex Social Network” (2014). HWCOM Faculty Publications. 123.
Grauerholz L. and Owens N. (2015), “Alternative Food Movements”, International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Edition, p. 566-572.
Sbicca, J (2018). Food Justice Now: Deepening the Roots of Social Struggle. University of Minnesota Press.
USDA (June 2009). “Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences” (PDF). Economic Research Service. Accessed 24 September 2020
cata-farmworkers.org/ Accessed 24 September 2020
werepair.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Food-Justice-Glossary.pdf Accessed 25 September 2020