Food Policy for Food Justice: Natural Oral Care Supports

This is the ninth  in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

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Is oral health a food justice issue? OKT says yes. People without access to nutritious food experience more oral health problems. As these people usually also have income challenges, if they can access oral health care, extractions are the norm. As a result, they suffer unease  in social situations and are often unable to present themselves as candidates for better employment opportunities.

The following information aims to support those without access to good oral healthcare maintain their oral health.

  • Breastfeeding is the foundation for oral health. It exercises the jaw, creates good fit, healthy palate formation and increases healthy flow of saliva.
  • Whole foods promote oral health: fresh produce, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats and whole grains support the growth of good bacteria and fight inflammation. Crunchy fruits and vegetables clean teeth, remove plaque massage gums and help prevent gum disease.
  • Avoiding processed foods, especially those high in sugar, can boost oral health. Chemical additives (many found in toothpaste) can increase risks for oral health problems, e.g. triclosan, aspartame, saccharin, sorbitol, sodium lauryl sulfate, dyes and fluoride.
  • Oil pulling (swishing with a spoon of coconut oil) 15 to 20 minutes a day can help strengthen gums, whiten teeth, reduce plaque and remove toxins from the mouth. WIC and EBT can be used to purchase coconut oil.
  • Herbal supports for oral health include peppermint, spearmint, fennel, cinnamon, sage and thyme. Grow your own in a window sill!
  • Toothpaste alternative: mix coconut oil, baking soda and a drop of peppermint essential oil. Brush every day but not too hard!
  • WIC and EBT can be used to purchase coconut oil.

 

 

OKT hosts GVSU student group for day of service and learning at Baxter Community Center

On Saturday Jan. 21, Our Kitchen Table hosted a group of 17 Grand Valley State University (GVSU) students for a Food Justice class and service opportunity at Baxter Community Center. GVSU’s MLK Jr. Day of Service and Solidarity has the goal of educating students about the Civil Rights movement and inspiring them to serve their communities in the spirit of social change. In addition, students have opportunity to experience solidarity through service projects.

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During a two-hour Food Justice class, students learned what food justice is, the history of the industrial food system and actions they can take to play a part in the bigger food justice movement.

After a tour of Baxter’s food and clothing pantry, kitchens, medical and dental clinics, greenhouse and childcare center, the students divided into small groups to take on various tasks around Baxter Community Center. They picked up trash on the property, cleaned out the greenhouse, organized the food pantry and and tidied up the kitchen.

OKT was happy Baxter came on board to offer a service portion as part of the day’s activities. Hopefully, some or all of these students will go on to be champions of food justice where they live and work.

The MLK Jr. Day of Service and Solidarity is one event in a week-long commemoration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & Public Health

Picture1.pngThis is the eighth  in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.Most Americans would put healthcare near the top of their list of concerns. Healthcare is not only an issue of cost, but deeply impacts our daily lives. Through the lens of Food Justice, Our Kitchen Table believes that Americans are facing a public health crisis; a major contributor to this crisis is the current food system.

The consequences of poor health are directly linked to the kind of food we eat and have access to. Whether heart disease, diabetes, obesity or any number of current health issues, all connect to what foods we eat and have access to.

Though we all have some responsibility for improving our health, the current agribusiness-driven food system is the main culprit in creating poor public health. From a Food Justice perspective, here is how we understand the issues of food and public health.

  • Agri-business manufactures processed food items that make up the majority of what people buy in grocery stores. Most of these food products are unhealthy to consume over an extended period of time.
  • These processed food items are saturated with sugar, salt, fat and chemical preservatives, which contribute to poor public health.
  • Agri-business spends millions of dollars every year lobbying Congress to limit any regulation of the food system. This makes it difficult for us to know what foods make us unhealthy.i
  • Agri-business spends billions every year researching new ways to make food items that are highly addictive. This is why we all really like the stuff that is not healthy.ii
  • Agri-business spends billions more marketing the unhealthiest foods to the public: soda, candy, snack foods, fast food and many other highly processed food items. Much of this marketing targets children between the ages of two and 18.iii
  • The current Agri-business driven food system most negatively impacts the people most marginalized in our country—people experiencing
    poverty, communities of color, children and immigrant communities.

Agri-business costs us billions of dollars in public health care costs every year. Those who have the least healthcare insurance and or no insurance are the ones most |negatively impacted by these health care costs. The bottom line? The current food system profits by making us all sick.

What can we do about this?

  1. Stop solely blaming individuals for unhealthy eating habits and instead realize that the current food system is the root of poor health.
  2. Educate ourselves and organize campaigns that frame public health through a Food Justice lens.
  3. Find allies working on public health issues and build our own power base in order to confront the current food system and create community-based options for eating healthier.
  4. See that poor public health is connected to racism, sexism, economic exploitation and other forms of oppression.
  5. Support local farms, organizations and retailers that provide nutritious, healthy food that the most marginalized can access.
  6. Expand urban growing opportunities for communities experiencing poor health
  7. Create greater access to neighborhood-based farmers markets and provide more food sharing and community kitchen opportunities— the people most negatively impacted by the unhealthy food system have fewer resources (and time) to prepare and preserve food that is not processed.
  8. Pressure public health officials to acknowledge that many of the major health issues we face are caused by the food system and ensure that those same health institutions develop new strategies that challenge the current food system.
  9. Grow some of our own food as an opportunity to eat better and develop greater awareness of how food impacts our health.

Sources:

  1. www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=A
  2. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss
  3.  http://casestudies.digitalads.org/wpcontent/uploads/2011/10/digitalads_brief_report.pdf

 

 

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & GMOS

This is the seventh  in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

gmosGenetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are deeply entrenched in our current food system. Most of us don’t even know when we are eating something that contains GMOs. So what is the big deal? And what do GMOs have to do with food justice? The corporations behind the development and proliferation of GMOs would certainly like us to quit asking questions. Since Our Kitchen Table is a food justice organization, it’s our mission to ask such questions.

GMOs are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

GMOs are part of the current food system in a big way, as reflected by the above info-graphic. And, they are something that the public has had little or no say in. Genetically modified organisms cause numerous problems.

Since most GMOs are not fully tested, we don’t fully understand their impact on human health over a long period of time. According to sources like the Organic Consumers Association,

GMOs have been linked to:

  • Thousands of toxic and allergenic reactions.
  • Thousands of sick, sterile and dead livestock.
  • Damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals.
  • Increased likelihood of allergies.
  • Damage of the immune system.
  • Damage of the liver.

The growth of GMO plants causes genetic pollution when GMO plants infect the DNA strain of non-GMO plants. This contamination may pose public health threats by creating “super weeds” that require greater amounts of more toxic pesticides to manage; threaten extinction of rare plants and their weedy relatives that we need for crop and plant bio-diversity. These weeds are not only the traditional relatives of our domesticated plants; they also assist us in overcoming crop blight.

GMO plants and seeds create huge problems for small farmers if, through naturally occurring cross-pollination, GMOs being used at neighboring farms contaminate their plants. Farmers save seeds from their crops to save money and rely on proven seed stock. When their seeds show evidence of containing the GMO’s DNA, the current US legal system allows companies like Monsanto to sue the farmers unless they pay royalties. Seems unjust doesn’t it? Well, it is unjust. However, since agribusiness entities have lots of influence with the political system, the courts often rule in their favor, leaving both small farmers and the public on the losing side.

nongmo-logoThe good news is that an international movement to ban GMOs is gaining ground. Several dozen countries have already banned the use of GMOs; more countries are moving in that direction. Our Kitchen Table supports banning GMOs in favor of biodiversity. The more biological diverse our diet is, the better off we will be. We also support transparency on the GMO issue. Most of us are eating GMO foods right now and don’t even know it. In the US, food labels do not have list GMOs. Many states are attempting to pass legislation to require that GMOs are labeled, but the agribusiness sector is spending billions to defeat such efforts.

Our Kitchen Table practices food justice that rejects the use and proliferation of GMOs by:

  • Providing heirloom seeds and plants to families involved in our home gardening program.
  • Ensuring that our Southeast Area Farmer’s Market vendors sell only non-GMO produce.
  • Working on public policy issues that promote greater transparency and justice in our food system.

 

 

Thank you, Dr. King.

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This quote is taken from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s address to the 1963 March on Washington, which culminated in the famous “I have a dream” message that has been co-opted, diluting the strong civil rights — and human rights — ideas that Dr. King lived by. OKT asks you to read “Claiming and Teaching the 1963 March on Washington,” which is part of the Zinn Education Project’s  If “We Knew Our History” series.

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & Climate Change

This is the sixth in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

5d1dce30fb378b552fdbf4cce77b91fdWild weather and unpredictable seasons are changing what farmers can grow and is making people hungry. Food prices are going up. Food quality is going down. Soon, climate change will affect what all of us can eat.
OXFAM

This opening statement from the international organization OXFAM introduces its investigation into the connection between Food Justice and Climate Justice. According to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made up of thousands of the world’s leading climate scientists, our current food system is one of the main contributors to climate change.

Driven by increasing profits, the current food system contributes to climate change in the following ways:

1) Agribusiness practices mono-cropping, where large portions of land are devoted to growing one kind of crop. This kind of land usage not only increases the need for additional water, it degrades the quality of the soil and causes soil erosion.

2) Agribusiness completely depends on fossil fuels to grow and harvest food, thus contributing significantly to warming the planet. In addition, most food grown does not stay local. The average food item travels 1,000 miles before it is consumed, increasing the current food system’s dependence on fossil fuels even more.

3) The current food system promotes high levels of meat consumption, particularly in the US. Producing so much meat diverts large amounts of water, increases levels of methane gas and requires more land use to raise feed, resulting in deforestation and the release of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. All of these factors further contribute to climate change.

4) The current food system produces highly processed foods that cause the many health problems we currently face. The energy and resources used to manufacture and distribute the high volume of unhealthy processed foods are also contributing to climate change.

While the world’s wealthier regions (specifically North America and Europe) are responsible for much of the current climate change crisis, its negative impacts
disproportionately impact regions of the world with higher levels of poverty. This is also true within the United States, where the communities most
negatively impacted by climate change are the same communities most
neglected by the current food system. This is why Our Kitchen Table
recognizes the relationship between food justice and climate justice. We
recognize that in order to have food justice, we need climate justice as well.

Here’s how you can practice climate justice alongside food justice:

  • Eat food grown locally.
  • Grow more of your own food.
  • Reduce or eliminate meat in your diet.
  • Reduce or eliminate processed foods in your diet.
  • Take action to build an alternative to the current food system.
  • Work for food sovereignty.
  • Join local, national and international efforts to promote food justice and climate justice.

 

 

You can learn more about climate change and food
justice in the zine, Organizing Cools the Planet, www.organizingcoolstheplanet.wordpress.com.

 

For information on OKT’s food justice resources and
campaigns, contact us at OKTable1@gmail.com  or
616-206-3641. Or, visit our website at www.oktjustice.org/.

 

 

OKT Food Justice Series: Food Justice, Food Workers and a Living Wage

stop-supersizing-povertyThis is the fifth  in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

In May 2014, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill increasing Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour by 2018.

Most likely, this decision was made to undercut the Democratic Party’s statewide ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. While, raising the minimum wage is a step in the right direction, it ignores the larger issue of a living wage, especially as it relates to workers in the food industry.

A Living Wage is different than a minimum wage. It takes inflation into account inflation and addresses what an individual actually needs to earn in order to live in the current economy. Many organizers around the country are calling $15 an hour a Living Wage and have won campaigns to get such an hourly wage passed.

These $15 an hour campaigns are mostly being organized by workers in the food industry, restaurant workers, those in retail and the fast food industry. These food industry workers have been among the most exploited in the US in recent decades. They are challenging a system that has made billions in profits by paying low wages.

jrw-farmworker-1Almost all workers in the food industry earn an unjust wage—from migrant workers and those working in food processing plants to grocery store clerks and people in restaurants, institutional food cafeterias and fast food chains. In both the restaurant and agriculture industries, minimum wage laws do not apply. Migrant workers are at the mercy of whatever farm owners want to pay them; people working for tips in restaurants have a whole different minimum wage standard applied to them.

For instance, the minimum wage for tip workers in Michigan is $2.65 an hour. The 2014 minimum wage law would increase that to a meager $3.52 by 2018. Imagine working for those wages and relying on the generosity of the general public—especially when larger numbers of people in the US are experiencing poverty.

As an organization that promotes and practices food justice, Our Kitchen Table (OKT) supports the efforts of food workers who are organizing to demand a livable wage and better working conditions. Check these out:

OKT knows that more and more people want to eat local, nutritious food that is chemical- and GMO-free. However, it is equally important that we demand that growers, migrant workers, restaurant workers and fast food workers be paid a living wage, have safe working conditions and have the right to organize fellow workers.

taste-233x173When we enter a grocery store, shop at a farmers market, eat at a restaurant or look at food labels, we should ask:

  • How were the workers who provided us with this food treated?
  • What is the wage that these food workers make?
  • Is it a living wage?
  • Do these food workers have the right to organize?
  • Does this food we are about to purchase and eat promote food justice?

OKT recognizes that workers in the food industry need justice as well!