Food is a justice issue.
At times, when I’ve used the term food justice people have looked at me like I have three heads. How could food be unjust? Well, it turns out that from farming to food stamps, there is a long history of injustices revolving around the food industry. Here are just a few basic terms and facts you need to know about food justice.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “food desertsare defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.”While hoping in the car and heading to the grocery store for food may be an easy task for some, it may be impossible for others. Some people live in areas that lack grocery stores, farmers’ markets or affordable healthy food providers, and they may not have a way in which to travel to buy healthy groceries.
People who live in food deserts may go shopping for food at small corner stores that do not have all of the healthy food options that grocery stores or farmers’ markets provide. Those who live in food deserts are usually left off paying more for items that don’t satisfy their wellness needs.
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. This program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, offers assistance to low-income individuals and families who need financial support to feed themselves.While this program was created with the intention of supporting those in need, from budget cuts to program limits, SNAP isn’t the end-all be-all of the justice issues revolving around access to healthy food. One individual on SNAP receives $194 a month ($6.49 a day), and as the number of people in a household increases, the amount of money per person decreases. For example, a household of eight receives $1,169 per month ($4.87 per person per day).Furthermore, not everyone is eligible to receive funding from SNAP. The program is unavailable to undocumented immigrants as well as those who have been convicted of a felony, so in many cases, the people who are most in need of access to healthy food will not be able to receive support in obtaining it for themselves.
Many people may not think of obesity as a food justice issue, but societal injustices can provide the framework for explaining why people are obese. As you may have noticed when you compare the price of fresh, organic vegetables to the price of soda, health food is more expensive than junk food. Those who cannot afford to pay high costs for food may turn to junk food and suffer health consequences such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes.
The government hasn’t always been the best at providing the public with a healthy eating environment as officials have often prioritized making money over caring for people’s health. For example, the government subsidizes corn, so it can be used as filler in meats, fed to cows instead of grass (making them sick), and engineered into all of those unpronounceable ingredients we see in processed foods. And of course, let’s not forget about the time the when Congress declared that the tomato paste on pizza could be considered a vegetable in school lunches…
There is so much more to food justice than what is just listed here. From farm worker’s rights to environmental issues, food justice is an intersectional issue that spans a range of topics. So the next time you sit down to eat a nice meal with friends you may want to think about the politics wrapped up in every bite.