OKT interviews food justice activist LaDonna Redmond

LaDonna Redmond will be at At Sherman Street Church, 1000 Sherman SE, in Grand Rapids on Saturday April 27, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Her program is entitled,”Historical Trauma and Food Justice. Lunch will be provided. RSVP.

OKT: What is food justice?

Redmond: This is an interesting question. It presupposes that we don’t grasp the idea of justice. Food justice is the right to food, the right to feed oneself and the right to know what’s in your food …  If I want to feed myself and cannot, how do I remove the obstacles? (One way) is through one’s own labor, the tools and the means to grow your own food.

OKT: How does the challenge the charity paradigm?

Redmond: Food justice has nothing to do with charity and everything to do with the food system. (It challenges) the notion that people don’t have the intellect or moral capacity to feed themselves–the injustice is that they are denied the right to choose (healthy foods) for themselves. Not a judgment against charity but a challenge to any system to oppression. If we really want to have a substantive conversation, we are going to have to address the mechanism that keeps people in poverty. The economic systems in place require people to be in poverty in order that others can thrive. Charity fills the gap. How do we address a system? We encourage the community to organize.

OKT: What made you decide to come to Grand Rapids?

Redmond: My quest is to really help communities around the country to organize themselves as to address this broader problem, which is increased corporate control of our food system. (We must) politicize the issue of food justice … address the symptoms of food injustice.

OKT: How can we get our neighbors to engage in the work?

Redmond: We marginalize ourselves by suggesting that they start a garden. You can’t expect everyone to grow food. They are not going back to a time where people are forced to work the land so others have the luxury. The onus is on us to have the proper conversation with people.

OKT: How does a substandard school meals program add to the problem of under-nutrition?

Redmond: It’s the same model that keeps our communities without access to the healthiest kinds of food. (The) notion in our food system that our food has to be cheap is part of the problem … Why do we struggle to make sure schools have optimal education levels? We need the same programs to make sure our food is at absolute optimal levels. The target of the intervention is the people who run the system (school board). They have the power to change that. Organize that political voice. It’s up to us to put it on their agenda.

We’ve got to get into the political arena and begin our journey to policy, not just programs and projects. Did you know that Debbie Stabenow was in on the new Monsanto Act? This woman is undoing any potential impact of those projects. We have to stop people like her … We’ve got to find our courage to challenge these oppressive systems.

Redmond is launching a new organization, A Campaign for Food Justice Now. A membership based organization, it will not depend on foundation support, but on members sharing what they can,  be it 50 cents or $5,000.  “The nonprofit industrial complex is not the path to equity. The path is being able to access democracy. I’m ready to pick the big fight and tired of working in an ineffective non-profit organization. It’s time to get the people involved,” Redmond says. “We have to be encouraged now more than ever. The work on the ground is hard. Our communities have the right to feed themselves.”

For information on joining, visit http://www.cfjn.org/.