Friday, November 16, 2018

Guest Essay: Defining Food Justice

The following essay on the topic of food justice was written by Azul Tellez Wright, the new assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, and was published in its most recent newsletter. If you would like to engage further in this topic, I would suggest volunteering or donating to the organizations that Ms. Wright lists below, or consider making a donation in the name of someone on your holiday gift list.

When you think of the term "Food Justice," what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a vacant lot being converted into an urban farm or cooking classes at a local community center that are open to all. I wanted to take some time this week to flesh out the term and give some examples of local organizations that are doing good work in this area.

Healthy food should be accessible to everyone.

The food justice movement is a social movement that arose to address the inequities in our food system and is inextricably linked to the racial, environmental and economic justice movements. The term is said to have arisen in 1996 from the Community Food Security Coalition, which received criticism for not including the voices of those primarily affected by food injustices. Since then, the term has evolved to fit the specific food culture of our time. The organization Just Food defines Food Justice as follows: “Food Justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals.

Farmers' markets support food justice in their communities.

This is a very broad definition of a term that is subjective to each community. I find that the best way to understand food justice is to offer some examples of organizations that are enacting change in their communities. Here are three local organizations that are dedicated to the cause of food justice:
  • Urban Gleaners. Based in SE Portland, Urban Gleaners addresses both food insecurity and food waste in their community. They pick up food that would normally be thrown out from restaurants, grocery stores, corporate campuses and farms and distribute it to people experiencing hunger. Their mobile market van travels to low-income housing complexes and 25 schools across the city on a weekly basis.
  • Adelante Mujeres Sustainable Agriculture Program. Adelante Mujeres, which translates as "rise up women," is a nonprofit in Forest Grove, Oregon, that works to support Latina women and their families in Washington county. One of their many programs is the Sustainable Agriculture program which provides local Latino farmers with training to grow and sell their produce in a sustainable manner. Through the courses and trainings they offer, farmers gain the skills to eventually run their own farm businesses.
  • Mudbone Grown/Unity Farm. Located on the Oregon Food Bank’s Northeast Portland headquarters, Unity Farm is run by the organization Mudbone Grown and the Black Food Sovereignty council. Unity Farm is a black-owned and operated urban farm that focuses on intergenerational, community-based farming. The food grown on the farm goes to several groups working to decrease food insecurity as well as to its CSA members. They also offer a beginning farmer training program for people of color in an effort to increase representation in the Portland farming scene.
The Hillsdale Farmers Market is also dedicated to food justice. By supporting local farmers and businesses, we are creating a resilient food system. We also accept SNAP benefits and offer a Double Up Food Bucks program in which SNAP recipients receive up to $10 to spend on produce each visit. [Watch this video about the program.]

The market is planning to expand its involvement in food justice issues in the following ways:
  • Expand our SNAP customer base in order to increase access to healthy, affordable food in our community.
  • Host cooking and nutrition classes at the market and at other sites in the community.
  • Engage our community in shopping at farmers' markets and debunk the myth that farmers' markets are more expensive than grocery stores.
Azul Tellez Wright grew up in Portland, went to Connecticut College, then worked at Greensgrow Farms in Philadelphia. She ran its CSA program for SNAP recipients and wrote the weekly newsletter. Azul moved back to Portland and worked at Adelante Mujeres in the micro-enterprise program. Azul is also a three-year fellow in 99 Girlfriends.

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