Food justice is a concept of moral rightness where every community has access to healthy, affordable, organic food. Food justice supports food that is grown in a method that does not exploit the earth or its workers and promotes local distribution. The food justice movement envisions communities achieving food security while ensuring that our system shifts toward a more equitable production, distribution, and consumption of local and organic options. Today, leaders creating that shift are found on urban farms, permaculture projects, rural organic farms, markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs). These community hubs serve to educate the public as to what healthy organic local food looks, feels, smells, and tastes like. They also promote the localization and fair share of surplus food, as well as employing and feeding local families.
The food justice movement includes policy perspectives that communities can enact to support urban farms, farmer’s markets, CSAs, and organic grocery stores through activism, advocacy, and research. Together with permaculture as a lens for understanding nature’s pattern of closed loop systems and urban farms as a space for replicating them, we create a triangle of theory, practice, and activism. Our movement’s goal is to effect the changes our communities call for in order to create a food system that sustains everyone. As we begin to awaken to the harm created by decades of eating processed foods, chemical fertilizer farming, and challenges to global food transportation in an age of diminishing oil production, this call will grow louder.
So what are some strategies of the food justice movement? How do we promote food justice in our communities? We begin by surveying accessibility to healthy, affordable, organic foods. We define areas of little to no access to such foods as food deserts. These food deserts are often filled with liquor stores, fast food restaurants, and a lack of healthy food options. One of the most difficult challenges faced by the food justice movement can be educating people as to what healthy food is, why organic food is important for their bodies and the earth, and why they should take the time to cook for themselves rather than buying the easy option. This is where our Green Man Triangle of theory, practice, and activism comes in handy.
We connect with community leaders, create neighborhood coalitions and establish urban farms in backyards, city lots, church lots, abandoned space, and schools. We raise funds and collect surplus resources to create garden programs that teach our community through entertaining events. We host dinners, cook-offs, planting, harvesting, canning and preserving parties, movie screenings, music and art festivals that connect our community and provide a space to teach them the basics of urban farming and permaculture. From these projects, we create a network of food justice activists that work with communities to enact policy changes allowing fuller, more diverse systems that can further address the problems of our current food system.
As policy creates a space for more community investment in land projects, we push to create models that can be replicated across the world and adapted to the needs of communities and cultures. These models are published online and through organizations serving as think tanks for policy research, and as they are enacted throughout the world the conversation continues as to what are the best practices, most innovative methods, and most productive models toward achieving food justice and feeding our community locally.
The framework for this grassroots movement currently going viral is in place, after connecting and building for the past 25 years. Food justice activists are busy fighting laws prohibiting the sale of homegrown foods, reforming laws against keeping backyard micro-livestock, and challenging laws that prevent the rezoning of land for use as community garden projects. These laws currently limit the scale of a legal local food system, and can be replaced to create a space for the growth of such a system. We create systems to distribute food surpluses locally to those who are in need and cannot afford organic food. We host events and launch websites to promote food justice, urban farming, and permaculture.
We envision a world where a walk around your block will bring you into contact with a network of food surpluses, reinvested into the community with cooking and preserving programs. Fruit trees with pears, plums, apples, apricots, and peaches that get canned, jammed, and baked into pies weekly. Berry bushes with raspberries, blueberries, and marionberries to put over your cereal every morning. Garden herbs and spices like mint, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, and cilantro dried on clotheslines, waiting for you to come by and jar up. Garden vegetables like zucchini, lettuce, cabbage, peas, beans, onions, garlic, cucumbers, carrots, beets, spinach, and tomatoes overflowing in neighborhood free cold boxes, primed for the pickling or cooking in a neighborhood kitchen space (perhaps your home?).
These surpluses, all possible on urban lots, will create a gift economy. This economy of shared goods will connect a community through conversation, shared meals and recipes. It will also hopefully foster a willingness to collaborate in facing transitions of energy, transportation, and food security. These surpluses will not feed an entire city, or even a neighborhood, but will empower communities to educate themselves about their food. Sharing this surplus and creating bonds of community with it will ultimately empower us to make choices that continue the shift towards food justice and resilient, local, equitable food systems.