Looking at Food System Issues through a ‘Food Justice Lens’

I first came upon the term “food justice” from an organization in Oakland called People’s Grocery led by Brahm Ahmadi and others who were fighting against an unjust food system in the “food desert” of West Oakland. At the time, it was an area that left residents with liquor stores and corner stores instead of grocery stores, a high prevalence of obesity and diet-related disease, and food dollars from hard-earned incomes that left the community through “leakage.” In fact, it was this food justice term “leakage” that really tweaked my economic and social justice sensibilities. A 2004 study showed that for every dollar spent at a locally-owned business, 68 cents stayed within the local community, while only 43 cents of every dollar spent at a chain store stayed within the community. Ahmadi lives these numbers, working hard to bring a grocery store into West Oakland, which will create jobs and build the local economy, all while providing healthier food to the residents.

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Gottlieb and Joshi’s book title, Food Justice, is the rallying cry of organizations like People’s Grocery and many others, and this book offers a fresh perspective on some of the food system issues that advocates in the various wings of the food movement have been writing about for a long time. The new angle that Food Justice takes is to examine those food system issues through a “food justice” lens. The authors explain what that means: A food justice orientation critiques and assesses the changing nature of food production and processing. It focuses on the need to reverse the disappearance of small farmers and farm-workers, along with the need to craft a different way to relate to the land and grow food. At the center of the food justice ethos is the demand for justice in the fields and work-places that produce and process foods, and for recognition of the dignity of work and basic human rights for those who have been denied such rights.” Read More >