March 22, 2012
Some thoughts on food justice
Many people don't understand what food justice is. Several conservatives I've talked to don't think there is a food justice problem, just like they don't think it's a problem if there is a huge and rising gap between poor and wealthy. Here is a food justice history lesson for us from 1987. West Siders (where I live) in St. Paul, down along Concord Street had a food justice problem. The residents had to go more than a mile to buy food. That might not seem like a problem for someone who doesn't think twice about hopping into their gas guzzling SUV to drive 3-1/2 miles to one of the massive super markets like Cub Foods or Rainbow or now Super Target and Walmart. But in a low income area with transportation equity problems to compound the task of just zipping out to the store to get a few things for dinner, even one mile is too far. Try pushing a baby stroller a mile and getting groceries and getting back home. What they really needed was a quality local, neighborhood grocery store or market that carried the things they all needed. But here is the catch: Those with the means to do so didn't want to invest in opening stores in the poorer areas of town. Access to quality food was not the same for everyone then or now. In current times, there is a trend of local farmers markets and urban farms springing up all across America in different neighborhoods, which is a way to level the playing field and provide access to healthy food for everyone at affordable prices. Most of these kinds of local markets existed in the past if we remember history, but were driven out of business by larger supermarkets. But in the case of the West Side neighborhood, all of the local markets were destroyed in the early 60's when the river flats were torn down and redeveloped for factories and industrial purposes. What was the solution in 1987 to the food justice problem? The neighbors banded together to create their own market. The 5 Corners Coop started and the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors triumphed. The 'West Side Voice' paper stated, "Democracy works only if citizens take the initiative to know one another and together plan the future." This is scary territory for most Republicans whose focus is on profits for the superstore instead of solving the food justice problem. What happens to food justice problems when natural organic food is available at a lower cost or even traded with neighbors and the profits stay in the neighborhood? Food inequality disappears. This is not a myth or a communist plot to take over the world, like some Conservative politicians would have us believe, but history proving what really works for sustainable neighborhoods. Human cooperation and involvement in each other's lives is the answer for a better life on this planet. The model of the isolated, gated community where people shoot innocent strangers walking through their neighborhood is the exact opposite, and the model of community that is being sold to us. When one of those neighbors can no longer sustain their lifestyle they have to move out of the neighborhood. In a real sustainable neighborhood, there is no food inequality in neighborhoods, everyone has access to the healthiest foods and there is no reason for being forced out of your home because you lost your job. History repeats itself because we don't remember the struggles of real people against power and injustice. Something to think about.