The Fight Against Food Insecurity in Low-Income Cities
BY ALLA RICKETT
As a brand, SUSTAIN embodies the idea of small scale, everyday changes that anyone could incorporate into their lifestyle. Providing encouragement to buy natural, eco-friendly products is a decision that each person can make for themselves. This decision is a form of activism, whether most individuals are aware of it or not.
Activism does not have to specifically be a controversial issue, but it should encourage change and lay down groundwork to support or combat future issues. The most famous forms of activism have been done on a large scale. Movements like #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite, are the products of fourth-wave feminism and push for inclusivity in the television and film industry. But some of the most meaningful work is done on a micro level.
Within activism, there is a food justice movement which brings awareness to economic factors that causes food insecurity. The concept of food justice can be summed up as a basic human right to have access to fresh and healthy food. Food justice is best applied to low-income areas and food deserts, which are areas of the United States that do not have direct access to fresh food. The right to fresh food and produce is something that every human deserves but does not receive.
My participation in food justice began in February of 2019. A course I took was centered around helping a local elementary school create and maintain a school garden. My classmates and I would plan lessons for the students, as a way to incorporate their studies in the garden. Towards the end of April, many of the plants were ripe and ready to be harvested. The students were able to taste foods that many of them had never seen in a garden, such as swiss chard and basil. Both my peers and students were equally excited to reap the benefits of something that took months to flourish.
The term food justice describes what happens in the school garden. National Gardening Association Education Program Coordinator, Julie Parker, describes school gardens as “having the power to teach young people that access to food can be solved by taking action in one’s own community.” Creating an environment for students to feel they can make a difference may seem like a simple task, but it is truly a radical idea. Showing students how to grow a garden, how to sustain a garden, and how to properly utilize a garden is an immensely important lesson. It includes traditional lessons such as measuring, critical thinking, reading comprehension, and so many more.
One of the many facets of food justice is its recognition of race and class. Minorites such as African-Americans and Hispanics populate many low-income cities in the United States. Within these areas, students are one of the most disadvantaged groups. During the 1968-1969 school year, the Black Panther Party developed a program named the Free Breakfast for Children. Through this program at least 20,000 children were fed. Students having access to a garden with fresh food extends beyond them. The produce they grow is theirs to bring home and enjoy with their families. The knowledge they learn is something they can bring outside of an academic setting. The Free Breakfast for Children program provided the Black Panther Party to create a sense of community while also allowing students to question the systems in place that denied feeding them.
While our involvement in food justice was very different from what the Black Panther Party accomplished, the end goal was still the same; food justice for those that need it. Its benefits are far more than just the food itself; it is about their community, their education, and their activism. Instead of purchasing produce from a grocery store, sustaining a garden is a liberatory practice for anyone willing to take the time to grow your own food, making its own political statement.