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Food Justice (Injustice)

Page history last edited by llina003@plattsburgh.edu 2 years, 6 months ago

Introducing Food Justice


     Food justice is defined as a structural view of the food system that sees healthy food as a human right and emphasizes the barriers that keep people from that right. Food justice, or actually injustice, focuses on the hardships of obtaining food that is healthy and affordable, but there is a clear indication that healthy and affordable food is not available to all. Lack of access to healthy foods seems to be way more common for minority groups. Poverty, race, and environment seem to be big factors that lead to food injustices, According to Holt-Gimenez (2012), “Some actors within the growing global food movement have a radical critique of the corporate food regime, calling for food sovereignty and structural, redistributive reforms including land, water and markets. Others advance a progressive, food justice agenda calling for access to healthy food by marginalized groups defined by race, gender and economic status.” Looking at these factors makes it evident that yes food is a basic need, but access to healthy foods is lacking in certain communities making it unjust and clearly unfair. It is astounding to think something as basic as healthy foods is inaccessible and race plays a huge card in where healthy foods are available. Yet as we examine these factors and question how inaccessible healthy foods are, we must also look at other factors that exploit food and it’s industries such as the exploitation of farm workers, food deserts, and racial barriers that really stop healthy foods from being universal and widespread in all communities. 


Major Issues of Food Justice


     Examining the factors that contribute to the ongoing crisis of access to healthy food and just overall making sure the healthy food is getting through to lower income communities not just rich areas. Some of the factors of food injustice would be the exploitation of farm workers, food deserts, and racial barriers that keep many Americans from having access to healthy food and why the food industry is all out of whack. Diving deep into the exploitation of farm workers, food deserts, and racial barriers will help make food injustice understand the problems within the food industry and why healthy foods are not universal. 

     In this section the exploitation of farm workers exposes a huge problem within the food industries, examining how farm workers can be overworked with little to no wage. According to Gottlieb, Joshi (2010) there was a huge case showing how in 1997 the Department of Justice convicted two agricultural employers on slavery, extortion, and weapons offenses, and sentenced them to fifteen years in federal prison each. These two employers had kept over 400 men and women in Florida and South Carolina, most of the workers immigrants coming from Mexico and Guatemala. These workers were subject to “work ten- to twelve hour days, six days a week, for as little as $20 per week, under the constant watch of armed guards.” This shows that the fact that people decided to take advantage of people who are in desperate need of work to be overworked producing food for the country but yet being paid little to no wage, it’s disgusting how much these agriculture food industries take advantage of their employees. Also being exploited in this agriculture industry are children, a lot of children 14 and under are put to work in the agriculture field. This shows that we examine agriculture as a way to have access to healthy and organic food, but who are working to ensure that we get these healthy foods. It’s dangerous to expose children to that kind of work environment and with no pay. Also having people work so many hours outside is dangerous to the health of these individuals. Back in the early 1900’s, Upton Sinclair exposed unhealthy conditions with the meat industry in his novel “The Jungle”, causing a huge reinforcement on what goes on in the meat industry, exposing the agricultural industry for the exploitation of workers is essentially the impact that Sinclair wanted. Expose what’s going on to enforce change upon an industry. 

     The next factor that shows a problem within accessibility to healthy foods would be food deserts. According to Alkan, Agyeman (2011) imagining a scenario in your head of a shabby looking liquor store in West Oakland, with it’s worn down look it can be used as a metaphor for what America’s inner cities look like in a post industrial world, yet also representing how liquor stores seem to be everyone in low income neighborhoods with a high population of minorities. This shows how having unhealthy options as the sole food retailer is what many food activists call food deserts. Food deserts can be defined as an area with little access to economical and healthy food, as opposed to a food oasis, which has more access to supermarkets or vegetable shops with fresh vegetables. This shows that, based on the information provided, it seems that inner cities or ghettos are called food deserts based upon what unhealthy food establishments are dominating in low-income neighborhoods with a high population of PoC such as liquor stores and fast food restaurants. Statistics shows that based on food deserts and little to no access to healthy foods “Native Americans are 60 percent more likely to be obese than US whites, and the rate of diagnosed diabetes is 77 percent higher among African-Americans, 66 percent higher among Hispanics, and 18 percent higher among Asians than among whites.” (Chow 2013). Why is it that in low income neighborhoods there’s a McDonalds every turn, a Chinese restaurant on each corner, corner stores filled with candy and junk food dominating in these neighborhoods, but yet you’ll only find a whole foods or a Trader Joes in a nice neighborhood. 

     Another factor that contributes to the ongoing crisis of food injustices in America would be racial barriers. So many aspects of race contribute to these issues of inaccessibility of healthy foods and problems in the food industry. According to Billings and Cabbil (2011), “This is a part of the structure of race in this country. To understand structural racism is to understand how race plays itself out in this country’s food systems. People of color are the prevailing laborers working on farms and in agriculture, processing food, serving food, and cleaning restaurants and kitchens. Low-paying jobs, jobs with higher safety hazards, and jobs with toxic environmental impacts are relegated, disproportionately, to people of color. Many bear the cost of expensive drugs to treat their conditions. Transportation is especially burdensome to poor people of color working in the food-service industries, since many jobs have moved to suburban communities. To understand the structure of race, we must follow the money, notice who benefits, and trace the unequal investments of time, labor, and finance in communities where people of color live. Corporate investments in neighborhoods populated by a majority of African Americans are especially hard to come by. This is the arrangement—even with food.” This shows that racial barriers that most people might not think of have a hand in food injustices. As the quote explains all the different aspects of racial inequalities that make it difficult for people of color to actually live a healthy lifestyle. Looking at all these issues that make it hard to really pinpoint what solutions can be helpful to really combat these issues to make the food industry a better workplace and to make healthy foods accessible.


Solutions to Food Injustices


     Examining all the factors that contribute to these injustices, examining what can actually be great solutions to combat the issues at hand. Yet with looking at all the problems fake solutions are being made up to help People of Color in low income communities. According to Slocum and Cadieux (2015) it shows that many initiatives such as anti-hunger advocacy and local food shelves would be good ways to connect food efforts to social justice, yet it is essentially doing nothing for the communities that actually need food justice.  Programs that may seem to advocate for food justice are actually avoiding the actual issues within the system of food. “These programs, with their conspicuous sponsorship by dominant food market actors in Minnesota, also may be contributing to the emphasis that food activists place on market mechanisms for addressing food system problems.” This shows that things that we may think are helping and advocating to these communities can actually be contributing furthermore to the problem. Local food shelves can be contributing to the problem in ways that they don't have healthy fresh food, just non-perishables. Starvation and food injustices are two different things, the health deterioration in communities of color is too high to ignore anymore. 

     One initiative that shows that actual change to the systematic oppression of food in communities of color would be the Black Panthers started a free breakfast program before the nation could implement free breakfast in schools in 1973. (Holt-Gimenez, 2011). Food was part of a much bigger agenda for black liberation in the Black Panther Party Platform and Program of October 1966. “The program's initial demand was for independence and the ability of the black population to decide its own fate.” This shows an actual step in the right direction for food justice before the nation could catch on and implement mandated laws for everyone to have free breakfast in schools. For the Black Panthers to start a program that eventually expanded to nationwide laws is what needs to be done in the food justice movement. Essentially, what food justice is a grassroots movement that arose in response to food insecurity. There are movements dedicated to food injustices, but as shown some can be problematic and not helpful while others can be beneficial and can spark greater change for generations to reap the benefits. Thus, looking at the difference between solutions proved to be no good and an actual program and movement that creates change can really help different ways to combat these issues within Food Justice.


Connecting Food Justice to Philosophical Ideals 


     In this section food justice will be examined closely to philosophical ideals to better understand food justice. Understanding that food justice is a movement that wants to ensure healthy food is equally accessible to everyone and not just a certain group of people. Yet, after reading many philosophers' ideals and thinking, we can conclude that food injustices are unequal and unjust. According to Dieterle (2015) she explains how she feels that food insecurity is the biggest inequality as food deserts occur in areas that are primarily non-white. She connects the two to Rawlsian theory of justice, “one cannot participate as a free and equal citizen when one is food insecure.” agreeing with that statement, how is someone supposed to be as successful as someone who is food secure when in poverty stricken communities there’s no space for success. Food deserts only emphasize the issue of how communities differ from each other when one community is primarily people of color compared to another community that is mostly white. Also examining a Lockean state of nature helps better understand how unjust food injustices are, Locke expressed that as “the earth and its resources are owned in common by all individuals”, which is clearly untrue as people of color in lower income communities do not have access to the “earth’s natural resources.” This shows that even examining philosophical ideals and thoughts shows that even to these philosophers that food injustice is wrong and unacceptable.




     To sum everything up, food justice is a serious matter that deserves more attention to be able to have better workforce within the food industry and access to healthy food. Food justice is described as a structural view of the eating system that considers nutritious food to be a human right and stresses the hurdles that prevent individuals from exercising that right. Food justice, or actually injustice, focuses on the difficulties of acquiring nutritious and inexpensive food, although there is convincing evidence that good and affordable food is not available to all. Examining the issues of exploitation of workers, food deserts, and racial barriers make it easier to understand what is happening within food injustices. Having an understanding of these issues makes it easier to find solutions that will actually benefit the communities in need of food justice. Overall, understanding food justice and what can be done to ensure that healthy food and a safe workforce is universal to all in the United States. 



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