“The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food,
since food itself is medicine: not only for the body,
but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.”
- Winona La Duke
The term Food Justice emerges within grassroots communities working for social change through food systems. Participants within the Food Justice movement recognize and work to address structural inequalities inherent within the production, distribution, and consumption of industrial foods, specifically recognizing issues of race, class, privilege, and oppression that often go unmentioned even in conversations surrounding organic foods.
Some contexts in which communities are affected by food injustice include inner city residents who do not have access to affordable, nutritious food; farm laborers who are exposed to dangerous pesticides and chemical fertilizers; small farmers, especially small farmers of color, who are systematically disenfranchised from government subsidies; communities whose water and food is contaminated by industrial chemicals and hormones as a result of factory farming; cultures whose ancestral crops are now endangered and whose traditional ingredients are hard to find; and farmers throughout the Global South whose markets are flooded by overwhelming quantities of subsidized industrial crops, thereby driving down the price they can get for food grown for local consumption.
The "official" unemployment rate is over 12% in CA, while the real unemployment rate is closer to 20% when it includes all the people who are underemployed. In Oakland, the official unemployment rate according to the Oakland Community and Economic Agency jumped from 9.5% in 2008 to 17.3% in July 2009 (http://www.business2oakland.com/main/laborforce.htm) . In certain parts of East and West Oakland, where people of color make up the overwhelming majority, the unemployment rate must be 1/3 or higher.
We need to include FOOD in the green jobs discussion, and show how thousands of jobs could and should be created to help usher in a new local and sustainable food system, one that creates access to healthy food and jobs in low-income urban and rural communities. We have a food crisis, a health crisis, and an economic crisis that are all related, so we are working to show that urban/suburban food production can create diverse, living wage jobs, reinvigorate local economic activity, AND also provide healthy affordable food to surrounding communities.
The fight for environmental justice is the process by which communities are challenging the structural inequalities where they live, work and play that negatively impact their health and well being. These battles regularly, but not exclusively seek to create communities that are free from environmental toxins, seek redress for any environmental inequalities suffered, and seek to have equal access to environmental goods, such as green space, public transportation and nutritious/affordable food.
It is no mere coincidence that many of the toxic waste sites and heavy industrial factories that spew harmful chemicals into the air, water and human bodies of those living nearby are located disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color. For example, right here in Richmond, CA (where 82% of the people are listed as "minorities" by the U.S. census), local residents are organizing to prevent the expansion of Chevron's second largest oil refinery, already rated as one of the dirties facilities in the nation (see below for more info on the Richmond Chevron refinery). This kind of environmental racism is prevalent in thousands upon thousands of localities around the world, as powerful corporations site their most destructive and polluting facilities in economically oppressed communities that struggle against systemic racism, oppression, and political disenfranchisement. Thus, a strong international alliance in the battle for environmental justice has emerged, bringing together environmentalists, labor advocates, economic development advocates, indigenous rights organizations, church groups, racial justice advocates, and many others to fight for environmental justice. Local acts of resistance are supported by the strengthening of local/global linkages of civil-society networks and alliances, international boycotts, and legal battles, as communities assert their right to live in environments free from industrial toxins and environmental racism.
For more information on the struggle for environmental justice in Richmond, CA, please see http://west.actforclimatejustice.org/ and http://truecostofchevron.com. Planting Justice co-founder Gavin Raders has also published his research on the fight for the right to clean water and the struggle against water privatization in India, which you can read here: