Healthy food is a civil right

Lila Cabbil, president emeritus, Rosa Parks Institute, with OKT’s Lisa Oliver-King, Roni VanBuren, Sheri Munsell and Yvonne Woodard.

In preparation for another year of managing the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market, Our Kitchen Table has brought in Detroit activist and consultant, Lila Cabbil, to work with farmers’ market partners Our Kitchen Table, Kent County Health Department and Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council.

Ms. Cabbil, president emeritus of the Rosa Parks Institute, served as Mrs. Parks “right hand” for nearly 40 years. Her work with the farmers’ market team regards issues of power and race, particularly as they relate to challenges in minority groups. The goal is to create a market environment where the mainstream organizations involved value community assets and differences.

In her hometown of Detroit, Ms. Cabbil works with The People’s Water Board Coalition of Detroit, where tens of thousands of residents do not have access to clean and affordable water.  She also has a new book out, Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing: Stories from Our Work.

What has the fight for civil rights got to do with a farmers’ market? Everything. Healthy food is a civil right—a right that the current food system too often denies people of color.  Filling hungry bellies with junk food that increases asthma, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses is not justice. We must work together to make healthy foods available and accessible in our neighborhoods. The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market is one small way the community can come together and build an alternative food system that ensures this civil right.

As we commemorate Martin Luther King’s accomplishments in the Civil Rights Movement on Monday, let’s not forget that the work for racial justice includes the right to healthy food.

“Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will.” –Martin Luther King

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