Tag Archive | Food Justice

OKT presents at City-sponsored workshop

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Growing: Community Justice and Food
6-9 p.m. Monday June 18
Baxter Community Center, 935 Baxter St. SE 49506

OKT’s executive director, Lisa Oliver-King will talk about growing food–and growing justice–in Grand Rapids’ southeast neighborhoods. The workshop seeks to share how to strengthen relationships and quality of life in these neighborhoods, practice food justice and engage neighbors via a community garden with financial support from the City of Grand Rapids Neighborhood Match Fund (NMF) www.grandrapidsmi.gov/nmf.

The main goals of the NMF are to build stronger connections among residents in neighborhoods, and to address and promote social justice. All projects, including community gardens, must intentionally advance these goals. So if you’re a GR resident interested in starting a community garden to grow community, justice and food – attend this workshop for important tips and strategies.

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & Brain Equity

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

1972gn2dfy55yjpgWhen considering intellect, intelligence, IQ or mental health, we seldom make a connection with food. However, a very distinct and strong connection exists – from the womb to the meals we prepare for our elders. Because people of color are more likely to lack access to the foods that build healthy brains and maintain well-functioning psyches, intelligence levels and mental health are another facet of food justice. OKT calls this lack of access “food apartheid.”

Since environmental toxins play a part in diminishing intellect and contributing to mental illness, these are facets of the larger environmental justice conversation.

In the Womb

Studies have shown that pregnant moms need to eat 80 to 100 grams of protein as part of a well-balanced diet to ensure healthy infant outcomes. That well-balanced diet includes foods rich in calcium, healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables and 100% whole grains. The Standard American Diet will not satisfy this requirement. The junk food, fast foods and convenience foods prevalent in most income-challenged neighborhoods are even worse. Healthy brain growth especially depends on protein.

Infant mortality rates are double for black babies, compared to white. While the stress of racism plays a huge part in these numbers, under-nutrition during pregnancy is a factor, especially when babies born at term are underweight.

At the Breast … or Bottle

Breastfeeding is the very best food for infants. Among its many benefits, breast milk boosts baby’s intelligence. When the CDC investigated why fewer black women breastfed than white women, they found that the hospitals serving black women during childbirth were less likely to encourage and support breastfeeding. In addition, women in poverty, working one or more low-wage jobs, may not be able to pump milk when they are away from their babies.

breastfeedingBecause breastfeeding moms need to continue the same healthy diet they ate during pregnancy, lack of access to healthy foods continues to be a barrier to infants reaching their full intelligence potential after birth.

The human brain grows the most during pregnancy and the first three years of life. Diets high in fat, sugar, and processed foods during the first three years of life permanently lower children’s IQ. Wilder Research reports, “… nutrition affects students’ thinking skills, behavior, and health, all factors that impact academic performance. Research suggests that diets high in trans and saturated fats can negatively impact learning and memory, nutritional deficiencies early in life can affect the cognitive development of school-aged children, and access to nutrition improves students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels.”

Baby’s only food during the first year of life should be breastmilk (or formula). Introducing solid foods earlier can lead to obesity, allergies, asthma and digestive difficulties. Breastfeeding until age three or longer is common in many cultures and can help support healthy brain growth. Whatever age babies wean from the breast, it’s important that parents introduce a healthy, whole foods diet. The commercial-baby-food diet (we are brainwashed to believe in) does not meet these needs.

In the Classroom

Research has also established a link between nutrition and behavior. “Access to nutrition, particularly breakfast, can enhance a student’s psychosocial well-being, reduce aggression and school suspensions, and decrease discipline problems “

Harvard studies agree. “Diets high in refined sugars … are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.”

As an Adult

“Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain,” says UCLA food-brain expert, Fernando Gómez-Pinilla. He reports that junk food and fast food negatively affect the brain’s synapses. This can result in loss of cognitive function (memory loss, brain fog, dementia) and mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, ADD and bi-polar) Gomez-Pinilla goes as far to say, “Evidence indicates that what you eat can affect your grandchildren’s brain molecules and synapses.”

In other words, when an unjust food system prevents a generation from having access to healthy, whole foods, its children and grandchildren have increased risks for lowered cognitive function and mental illness.

Our Elders, Forgetting and Forgotten

Food apartheid inexcusably impacts our elders. When it’s too difficult to prepare meals, junk and convenience foods are too easy an answer. Fixed incomes can result in choosing the least nutritious options available. The food charity that elders access mostly consists of highly processed foods and white grain products. Some are making strides in offering elders healthier meals, for example Meals on Wheels, but what is needed is a food system that makes whole foods accessible to everyone, no matter their income, age or neighborhood.

Only Food Justice can ensure brain equity. When all people have access to healthy whole foods, from cradle to grave, only then can they reach their potentials for intellect and mental health.

 

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & Farmers’ Market

13882561_1253537447998287_2460462587423020698_nThis is the tenth in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers’ markets in the US increased from 1,700 in 1994 to more than 8,200 in 2014.This increase demonstrates the growing public interest in eating more fresh produce and supporting local growers. Farmers’ markets also provide people an opportunity to have regular interaction with local farmers, develop relationships and have a greater appreciation for what it takes to grow food, especially outside of  current agribusiness models.

However, having more farmers’ markets doesn’t necessarily result in a more just food system. In some ways, they can perpetuate the current food system’s
inequalities. For example, a farmers’ market that is part of a larger urban development plan often benefits those with economic and racial privilege. These markets charge more for produce and other food items use public dollars without public input and often contribute to urban gentrification.

When looking at farmers’ markets through a food justice lens, the market should not contribute to further inequity or sustain the current food system, which creates and perpetuates food insecurity. A farmers’ market that practices food justice would deliberately make it a priority to serve the nutritional needs of those most negatively impacted by the current food system. It would target communities of color, working class communities and communities experiencing poverty.

fullsizerender_2These communities consist of people receiving government food assistance like SNAP, WIC and the Double Up Food Bucks programs. The food justice movement and public health sectors have been pushing for more food assistance for purchasing fresh produce and even vegetable plants for those who want to grow their own food.

While such programs are subsidized by public money, the dollars spent on government food assistance programs pales in comparison to the public dollars supporting large corporate agribusiness. While neither subsidy is sustainable, Our Kitchen Table supports subsidizing communities experiencing poverty until our food system is truly democratic.

In addition to supporting people experiencing food insecurity, farmers’ markets that practice food justice should also make it a priority to have local growers and vendors who practice ecologically sound growing practices and fair labor practices. A farmers’ market practicing food justice should be transparent about these dynamics and exhibit signage that makes the practice of food justice highly visible.

Last, farmers’ markets should not end up being niche markets, but rather venues for both transforming the current food system and creating new food system models. In addition to providing more fresh food purchasing options, a farmers’ market that practices food justice should also educate the community about the food system and share resources and skills that empower people to collectively become more food independent, for example, cooking resources, food preservation workshops, seed exchanges, information of food policy challenges and even the development of food cooperatives. In other words, a farmers’ market that practices food justice should not only be a means to resist the current agribusiness food model, but also provide a venue for people to create truly democratic food systems that ultimately lead to food sovereignty.

For more information about Our Kitchen Table’s farmers’ market, the Southeast Area Farmers Market, contact SEAFM@OKTjustice.org or  on the Southeast Area Farmers Market  Facebook page.

 

 

 

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.