By Trisha Chakrabarti
Welcome to the inaugural edition of “Justice on the Table”! We are excited to provide a monthly installment in The Sprout on issues related to social justice in our food system. To start things off, we wanted to provide an introduction to concepts in the food justice movement and also give some background on the ways in which our student group, the Friedman Justice League, conceptualizes food justice. According to the website of Just Food, an organizational leader in New York City’s food justice movement, defines food justice as “communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food…[and] leads to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment.”
Let’s step back a minute – “communities exercising their right”? If that sounds a little revolutionary, it should. This highlights the role of community sovereignty in the decision-making processes that surround food– the idea that no group of people can tell another group of people what food they ought to eat, grow or sell. Justice, in this context, is the idea that an individual community knows what is best for its own members, and should have an equal opportunity to create their own food future. We see examples of this in our everyday lives: small farmers organizing to save their seeds; urban communities fighting for the right to know how their food is produced; neighborhood groups supporting corner bodegas that carry healthy foods; community activists organizing to maintain SNAP and WIC funding.
The Friedman Justice League believes that the fight for food justice begins here – supporting community struggles that are already under way, as people around the world try to (re)gain control of their food system. As Friedman students interested in social justice, our role is to work as allies within and across different movements. It is up to us to break down the intricacies of the systems we know best – whether that’s policy-making, agricultural, nutritional or physiological. We can work together to draw the maps of these systems, so that communities around the world can choose their own paths.
If you’re interested in learning more about food justice, feel free to join the Friedman Justice League (FJL) at one of our bi-weekly meetings. The FJL is a group of students across all disciplines, coming together to discuss issues of social justice within the food system. Our two-pronged mandate is: (1) to support the increased inclusion of justice-related topics in the curriculum of common Friedman courses and (2) to advocate for increased diversity in our student body, faculty and staff. We believe that by first working to change the atmosphere on-campus, we can be better allies and advocates for community change on the outside.
Trisha Chakrabarti is a third-year FPAN/MPH student who enjoys long walks along busy roads and dreams of a progressive income tax.