Food for Thought: What is Food Justice?

Food Justice is a concept that was introduced to me while on the Boston Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip last semester. Before attending the weeklong service trip, I had never heard this term used before. Food justice conceptualizes that everyone has the right to have access to healthy food, and the knowledge to know what that healthy food is. Food justice is an important issue that is prominent in our own community in Boston. There are so many people who are not given adequate resources to live a healthy life.

One problem that falls under the umbrella issue of food justice is that many people live in “food deserts”. A food desert is a place in which it is very difficult for individuals to obtain nutritious food, especially without owning a car. This can mean that a grocery store is far away, or that the market that is available does not supply nutritious options.

Primarily, food justice is applied to individuals in need who do not have the proper resources. This includes homeless individuals and those living in poverty. Unfortunately, we do not live in a society that provides proper support for these people. The 2014 Farm Bill decreased Food Stamp benefits by about 5%. This leaves, for example, a family of four with around $45 a week for food when they receive their monthly Food Stamps. This not probable. It is not realistic to expect a parent to feed their family of four a healthy meal each day of the week on this limited budget. It is not because the recipients are being reckless with their budgeting; it is because it is simply not enough.

Perhaps the most important component while learning about food justice is defeating any negative stigma towards these individuals. Their hunger and malnourishment is not because they’re lazy or choosing to live that way. It is because they live in a system that has failed them, and continues to fail them. While suffering from injustice, it is awfully difficult to accomplish anything else. It is extraordinarily difficult to focus on a goal, or maintain a healthy lifestyle, when you are suffering from hunger and have chronic anxiety about feeding your children. In connection, children who suffer from this don’t perform as well in school, or often develop obesity since they are eating the cheapest calories the least amount of money can buy.

The people in these situations are not able to acquire healthy food. To help, Emmanuel has started the Urban Food Project. The Urban Food Project includes Emmanuel-grown gardens taken care of by students. The food then goes to a variety of community partners, but the main beneficiary is Nazareth House. Nazareth House is a home for single mothers on welfare, and provides them with support, resources, and community. If you would like to help, please ask Mission + Ministry about service sites, and consider joining one of our service groups on an outing.