Tag Archive | Food Justice

Southeast Area Farmers’ Market and Food Justice

Mr. Henry selling organic collards, kale, mustard and sweet potato greens at the Southeast Area Farmers' Market.

Mr. Henry selling organic collards, kale, mustard and sweet potato greens at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

While most farmers’ markets have a business goal in mind, the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market’s main goal is food justice. Increasing access to healthy food in Grand Rapids’ southeast neighborhoods is the market’s food justice goal.

Food Justice grew out of the Environmental Justice movement, where communities of color and poor working class people began to realize that their lack of access to healthy and affordable food was not the result of their own behavior, but of a food system that was motivated by profit. It’s not that our neighborhoods are food deserts. Rather, they are victims of food apartheid.

If you’d like to discover more information about food justice, visit the OKT website to see the entire OKT Food Justice Series. The series includes information on the Farm Bill, GMOs, food workers’ rights, climate change and food justice, the impact women of color have had on the food justice movement and more.

The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at Gerald R Ford Academic Center through November 8. The market warmly welcomes SNAP/EBT, Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) and WIC & Sr. ProjectFresh as well as cash and debit cards.

2nd WOC Convening opened opportunities for impactful dialogue

Last night’s 2nd Women of Color Convening laid the foundation for important dialogue about food justice. The community members present shared their keen insights into the current food system’s role in denying people of color equal access to healthy foods, hence, promoting under-nutrition and disease in their communities. Facilitator, Lila Cabbil, president emeritus, Rosa Parks Institute, guided the dialogue. These kinds of conversations are evidence that change is not merely coming, it is already here.

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” I really enjoyed the OKT’s Women of Color /Food Justice event last night. I am excited about all that I learned and I’m anxious to attend more events.  I am still sharing the information I learned.” Gloria, attendee

Rapid Growth covers LaDonna Redmond’s upcoming appearance at OKT convening

Reposted from Rapid Growth

… do good

Food justice activist LaDonna Redmond tells it like it is

“Food justice is not just about nutrition,” says LaDonna Redmond. “It’s about dignity, and it’s about being visible.”

On Saturday, April 27, the nationally renowned food justice activist and TEDx-featured speaker will present ‘Historical Trauma and Food Justice’ from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sherman Street Church, 1000 Sherman SE, Grand Rapids. Lunch will be provided. (See how to RSVP, below.)

“We have a food system that has largely been built on the backs of people who don’t have a lot of rights and access to our public policy infrastructure,” says Redmond. “We need to collectively better understand the inequities in the food system, and make sure we include people who have faced these inequities in finding solutions.”

Converting vacant city lots to urban farm sites is a great start. But, Redmond says, “I live in a community where I can get a semi-automatic weapon quicker than I can get a tomato. The public health issue of violence is connected to the public health issue of chronic, diet-related diseases. In my community, it is about living or dying. You can die by the gun or from the lack of proper food.”

Redmond says that the food justice movement is really about the narratives of people of color and beginning to understand that the stories that we tell ourselves in the food movement are as important as the stories that we’ve left out.

“We must include in this the narrative of modern slavery,” she says. “Our food system today is still based on the exploitation of the labor of immigrants in this country. While we are talking about access to free-range chickens and grass-fed beef, we need to also be talking about immigration reform and fair wages for those farm workers, but, the people who serve us, who fix our food, should be paid fairly.”

A long-time community activist, Redmond has successfully worked to get Chicago Public Schools to evaluate junk food, launched urban agriculture projects, started a community grocery store, and worked on federal farm policy to expand access to healthy food in low-income communities.

In early April 2013, she launched the Campaign for Food Justice Now (CFJN), a membership-based organization that will use a race, class, and gender analysis to promote food and agricultural system reforms, and advocate for the adoption of right-to-food policies in the U.S.

Get involved:

- Attend Redmond’s presentation at Sherman Street Church — RSVP here or call (616) 206-3641.
– Watch Redmond’s TEDx presentation on Food Justice.
– Visit the Campaign for Food Justice Now’s website.
– Visit Our Kitchen Table’s website to learn more about food justice.

Sources: Stelle Slootmaker, Our Kitchen Table; LaDonna Redmond, TEDx presentation
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Our Kitchen Table and LaDonna Redmond

Snyder continues to stack Ag commission with agribusiness people

Reposted from GRIID.org

Yesterday, MLive reported that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed a new member to theMichigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.


Fred Walcott, who works for Valley View Pork near Allendale, is the newest of the five-member commission, that is exclusively made up of people who work for large agribusiness operations.

Walcott, who works at a 4,000 acre farm, will serve as commissioner along with Bob Kennedy, who is Vice President of Operations for Auburn Bean and Grain. The website for this business reads like a stock market sheet instead of a place where people respect the land and care for the earth.

Also serving on the Ag Commission is Diane Hansen, owner of Hansen Seed Farm and Donald Coe, the managing partner of Black Star Farms. Based on the information at Black Star Farms, it appears to be more of a tourist destination than a farm.

The fifth member of the Michigan Agriculture Commission is Trever Meachum, who is the production manager for High Acres Fruit Farm, a 3,000 acre farm in Van Buren County.

Adding Walcott demonstrates that the Governor is only interested in having the perspectives of people involved in large agribusiness operations. There is no one on the commission that seems committed to organic and sustainable farming practices, or people who are committed to promoting food justice.

Walcott is also part of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, which represents the interests of large factory farming operations, also known as CAFOs, in Michigan.

More importantly, groups like the Michigan Pork Producers Association and the industry groups represented by those on the ag commission, are also actively involved in federal farm policy issues and are engaged in lobbying efforts to continue the massive taxpayer subsidies currently operating through the Federal Farm Bill.

According to the Environmental Working Group, Michigan Farmers received $79,450,000 in federal subsidies for 2011. Looking at the list of farms that did receive massive subsidies, the majority of them are larger agribusiness operations and not smaller farms engaged in Community Supported Agriculture.

This announcement, coming from Snyder, is another blow to those who are part of the local food movement and those who work for food justice.

Bloom Collective hosting Food Justice potluck at Southeast Area Farmers’ Market July 14

This is re-posted from www.GRIID.org

Food Justice Potluck

Saturday, July 14

1:00 – 3:00 PM

Garfield Park 334 Burton SE, Grand Rapids

There has been a growing interest in recent years with people to want to eat local. So much so that many local stores and restaurants now promote themselves as selling food that is locally grown.

Despite the push for people to buy local food, much is often overlooked with the localism mentality.

Food that is grown locally can still be done in such a way that exploits people and the land. We know from a 2010 report from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission that working and living conditions for many migrant workers is oppressive and exploitative. Thus, just because food is grown locally doesn’t necessarily mean that promotes justice.

This will be the theme of the discussion that the Bloom Collective is hosting on Saturday, July 14, a potluck discussion about Food Justice. According to their facebook event it says:

We will have informational handouts that analyze the current food system and facilitate a discussion on how we can create more food justice.

The event is taking place at Garfield Park near the South East Area Farmers Market, a market that is run by the local food justice organization, Our Kitchen Table. The event is a potluck and people are invited to bring food to share.


Eating Our Way to a Better World? A Plea to Local, Fair-Trade, and Organic Food Enthusiasts

This article by Andrea Brower is re-posted from ZNetThank you to GRIID for bringing this post to our attention.

My belly is full. It seems no matter how hard I try to “eat my way to a better world”, that world never materializes. The organic and fair-trade industries are booming, Farmers Markets are the new norm, the word “locavore” was added to the Oxford Dictionary, and Michelle Obama even planted a White House garden. But agribusiness continues to consolidate power and profit, small farmers worldwide are being dispossessed in an unprecedented global land grab, over a billion people are going hungry, and agriculture’s contributions to climate change are increasing. It’s not just that change is slow, but we actually seem to be moving in the opposite direction than alternative food movements are trying to take us.

What is going on? How are we to understand this apparent paradox, and the seeming failure of our food activism? While the answers are not clear or easy, we can start by considering the main form our political action is taking, and where it is (and isn’t) getting us.

The slogan “vote with your fork” has become the hallmark of food movements. From Michael Pollan and Food Inc. to the vast majority of non-profit materials circulating on the internet and in grocery stores, we are empowered by the belief that we can change the world every time we take a bite. This idea of “ethical consumption” stems from classical market fundamentalism, which tells us that the market is a democracy where every dollar gives the right to vote. According to this logic, the social makeup is a result of interactions between billions of individual decisions, where markets simply respond to consumer desires and consumption is the primary arena of citizenship. Thus, to consume is to be political — to be good, participatory citizens.

Yet, buying “ethical” food does nothing to address the basic political economic structures that underly the destructive global food system. It doesn’t challenge corporate power, just re-orients it towards new niche markets. It doesn’t address the trade and subsidy policies that create inequality and hunger, or the privitization of our common genetic wealth, or the massive wave of farmland enclosures. While it may be an attempt to opt-out of supporting that food system, our vote of no confidence doesn’t do much to actually change that system. To illustrate further — even if we tripled the purchase of organics overnight, we will have done nothing to address the industrialization and corporatization of organics, or the erosion of standards to allow for all sorts of ecologically destructive practices in what is supposed to be a sustainable form of agriculture. Further, the majority of farmworkers will still be exposed to agricultural chemicals that we know are sentencing them to cancer, as we all continue to drink those chemicals in our water.

The logic of market fundamentalism that underlies much food activism essentially obscures socioeconomic structures and deflects responsibility away from the state and other regulatory institutions. Furthermore, it individualizes activism by making it about personal consumer choices. This can have the dangerous effect of starving collective political action and identities built upon common struggle.

In its worst forms, the idea of ethical consumption renders the unjustifiable gluttony of developed-world consumerism justifiable. It’s OK that we drive hummers, because we are driving to the farmers market! People can continue to consume with pleasure from a “guilt-free menu”, leaving untouched uncomfortable questions about how our lifestyles contribute more broadly to vast inequalities. In some instances, the idea of ethical consumerism does more to comfort and accommodate the individual eater, and thus solidify the structures of the current food system, than to actually challenge it.

Most of us are aware that alternative food movements have created a plethora of niche marketing opportunities that have been skillfully capitalized on by corporate food giants — that organics and fair trade have been largely coopted (often to the determinant of more pure organic farming and small-scale direct fair-trade schemes), and that even Wal-Mart is profiting from “local” branding. But we still seem to be relying on the mechanisms and logics that are implicated in the problems we are trying to correct — namely, markets and capitalism.

Capitalism prevents corporations from prioritizing anything above profit. Capitalism always tends towards the concentration of wealth and power. It requires dispossession and ever-expanding markets, and the subordination of all aspects of life to capital. While our efforts to develop local economy alternatives may be based on a desire to re-embed economies in systems of social and moral relations, we need to remember that exploitation is the prevailing logic of capitalism. Until we start actually talking about capitalism, and defining and creating alternatives that directly confront its logics, our alternatives will always be constrained and shaped by it. Let me re-state this a little differently — while we need to imagine and build alternative ways of producing and distributing food, if they do not subvert the logics of capitalism, they will be subsumed by them.

This necessarily means challenging structures and forces that do not reside at the local level. The local has become the predominant space of action in alternative food movements largely because it is seen as the site to try alternatives, and to counter trends towards globalized, industrialized, commodity-trade oriented agriculture. While this is an important aspect of resistance, we also need to be mindful of tendencies to use questions of scale to sidestep the more fundamental matters of power and capital. Further, if we confine our action to the small-scale, the most we can hope to achieve is small isolated ponds of fresh food for privileged consumers in an ocean of food injustices.

On the topic of capitalist exploitation, something needs to be said about food system workers — the people who grow, process, transport, sell and serve our food — and their striking invisibility in alternative food movements. While we talk a lot about “supporting farmers”, we rarely ask questions about farmworkers, and much less about the people working in dangerous and sweat-shop like food processing factories or the underpaid grocery clerks. It’s estimated that 86 percent of food system workers in the US don’t make enough to live, and that they use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the country’s workforce. By failing to put food system workers at the center of the conversation about sustainability and justice in the food system, the movement effectively marginalizes working-class, non-white and immigrant groups, as well as the half of humanity that produces 70 percent of the world’s food through “peasant agriculture”.

Of course, there are strands of the food movement that are clearly challenging the logics of capitalism, and that have put workers, justice and equality at the forefront of the political struggle. Some excellent examples include Via Campesina’s articulation of the connection between food sovereignty and land rights, trade regimes, and gender relations; consumer-labor alliances based in struggles for worker justice like the Immokalee Workers Coalition; Food Not Bombs example that large networks of people can work cooperatively by consensus and without leadership to provide essential needs; and the occupation of Gill Tract in Berkeley, which is calling attention to the need for direct action to reclaim space for urban agriculture. Even “ethical consumption” is a response to feeling implicated in ecosystem crisis and networks of exploitation, and more importantly, a desire to contribute to something different. In a culture that preaches self-interest, this in itself is hopeful. Furthermore, there is a tremendous amount of creativity and energy behind the countless emerging experiments to “re-embed” agriculture, and the movement has done a lot to present positive and pleasurable alternative visions of the future. Along with other social movements, we are part of a re-orientation of values that sees joy and satisfaction in greater connection to both other people and the non-human world, implicitly or explicitly questioning the fulfillment of consumption-driven lifestyles.

But we can’t stop here. When we fail to position our strategies in a larger project of transforming the capitalist food system, we risk erecting new barriers of privilege and inequality. If justice and sustainability are truly our priorities, then we need to start having conversations about capital, individual rights and property relations that challenge our very core beliefs. We need to de-naturalize and cease to tolerate extreme power and wealth inequities. We need to get beyond the idea that politics is what we choose to put in our mouths. And we need collective action for a collective world. Our reality is not made in an individual bubble contained within the market — we are shaped by our social relations, and must change them in order to change the world.

Do I still buy local and have a garden — absolutely! I’m just not under the illusion that these actions alone will change the food system. And I am not disheartened by this either, because the hope for me lies in what we have so far failed to imagine — in the possibilities of a radically fairer, more democratic and truly sustainable world.