Food Justice, Introduction:
After Hurricane Katrina, a small group of students calling their group Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools and themselves Rethinkers organized to have a voice in the reformation of the New Orleans school system. After addressing basic needs like doors on bathroom stalls, they rallied around the issue of school food: "the food tasted terrible and the cafeteria conditions were pathetic. Long lines and short lunch periods made it nearly impossible for students to wash their hands, eat, and digest the food." The group was successful in bringing the issue of food to the attention to the school administrators, and their work manifested in tangible change. This is just one example of grassroots action around food justice.
"Food justice, like environmental justice, is a powerful idea. It resonates with many groups and can be invoked to expand the support base for bringing about community change and a different kind of food system. It has the potential to link different kinds of advocates, including those concerned with health, the environment, food quality, globalization, workers' rights and working conditions, access to fresh and affordable food, and more sustainable land use."The food justice movement remains in its infancy, slowly gaining recognition and understanding int he mainstream world. Its definition, to many, remains unclear. "For the purposes of this book, in which food justice represents the substance as well as the governing metaphor of the discussion, we identify food justice in two ways. First, and most simply, we characterize food justice as ensuring that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown and produced, transported and distributed, and accessed and eaten are shared fairly. Second, by elaborating what food justice means and how it is realized in various settings, we hope to identify a language and a set of meanings, told through stories as well as analysis, that illuminate how food injustices are experienced and how they can be challenged and overcome."
"We seek to advance knowledge about the justice dimensions of what, where, and how we eat while also describing opportunities for moving toward a more just, healthy, democratic, and community-based food system. These opportunities, and the New Orleans Rethinkers assert, are available everywhere. The point now is to make them happen.
I've used far more quotes in this post than I usually do because the introduction to this book is written in a very personal way, and I think the authors' own words are more revealing than my summations of them could ever be. I admit that I immediately fell in love with Food Justice when, right off the bat, it spoke of the Rethinkers in New Orleans. This book is several years old now, and the Rethinkers have moved on from school food - though they are still doing excellent work. Dozens of groups have sprung up around the city since Katrina to address food justice, but the Rethinkers were among the first. Though New Orleans doesn't get much more mention, I am excited to delve into this work.