What is Food Justice?

Jul 20, 2011 1:16 pm

Better food isn't getting to those who need it

Ayinde Howell
Ayinde Howell
 

Someone once asked me what does the term food justice mean to me. Without thinking I said, “It means having a choice.” Being able to choose to live a healthy life is often taken away from certain members of society.

To drill down the issue a bit more, organic foods are un-subsidized and they cost twice as much as chemical-laden, pesticide-packed, highly processed foods. The “better” food is reserved for the higher income brackets and gentrified neighborhoods. While the lower income neighborhoods get what’s left. How do I know this? Because I've always lived in the “hood”  while my work as a Chef who specializes in plant-based cuisine often takes me into high income neighborhoods. Places with clientele who actually use the term money is no object — and mean it, especially when it comes to food.

My travels draw a stark contrast between two ends of the spectrum. These are places where you are more likely to find bleached flour, sugar-filled drinks and candy rather than whole foods, organic options and healthy snacks. Justice is defined as “equitableness or moral rightness” and food is “any nourishing substance that is eaten or drunk to sustain life and promote healthy growth.” Obtaining both of these in their true definition depends on one thing — choice. A truly balanced society means we have a choice and if we accept all these definitions as true, then I say with a bit of certainty there is no food justice in the hood.

This however is not just a local problem. I was in Cape Town, South Africa in 2001, and while teaching workshops to the local kids I had a discussion about how good the local grapes were. I was told that these were not even Grade A grapes. What we were eating were what was left over from the Grade A grapes that they export to the UK. One boy in fact explained how they had never even had Grade A grapes. Those grapes were reserved for the British. In this case you have a whole country not only being deprived but willingly selling their quality food to a former colonizer.

I have surmised that it comes down to money, education and then choice. If I didn’t’ know better, I would have bought the flour with a deadly chemical right in the label, bleach. I choose to vote with my dollars but one monkey don’t stop no show and I highly doubt anyone on my block will be reading my blog. So while exercising my right to choose I am left with a question for you: Does fairness and justice still apply if the victim doesn’t know they have a choice? 


 

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