Racism, or the mistreatment directed against one person on the basis of their membership to a particular racial or ethnic group, affects every area of life, including our food system. With 2020 putting a highlighter over the racial injustice that has continued to happen to POC and NBPOC for centuries, it is time we take a look at the macro racial disparities within our food system in order to make micro choices about our food.
Every choice we make and every dollar we spend can be made with a consciousness of origin, and the knowledge of who and how did the food that we are consuming make it to our table. If you knew that the choices you make could play an economic role in supporting racial equality, would you choose to do so?
A Brief, Important History
It is not hidden knowledge that this country’s agricultural history was founded on racial injustice. It began with the taking of land from indigenous people in order to start farms. It was these farms that Africans and indigenous peoples were enslaved to work and maintain.
After the civil war and during the Reconstruction period, former slaves began to gain access to land and began having some financial success. However, this land was often stolen by the whites using unjust law or thieving tactics, continuing to prove racial injustice within our agricultural system despite the end of the civil war.
Fast forward from this disparaging history and racism blatantly continues with the inaccessibility and unavailability of food in communities of color.
Food deserts are geographical areas where there is little access to affordable good quality and nutritious food. Food swamps and food apartheids are similar terms that also prove the racial injustice in our food system. These terms are “used to describe the great divide in access to healthy fresh food evident when comparing the average white community to the average community of color.”
These populations in food deserts have less access to healthy food. Since we know nutrition plays a role in chronic disease, this inequality and access to good food plays a role in the high rates of diet-related diseases amongst BP and NBPOC. As we know, basic nutrition is a need we all should have access and the right to, as it leads to empowerment in other areas of our lives. Food deserts show us the continuing racial disparity and injustice because of the inaccessibility to nutritious food in predominantly neighborhoods of color.
Here is an interactive map (food access research atlas) to show geographic locations of food deserts.
How To Solve It
There has been so much education and awareness with sustainable and local food, and the importance of knowing the origin of our food. While times have changed in regard to food policy and approaches to farming, the agricultural movement is predominantly white.
The fact that you are reading this article could mean that you are coming with a curiosity to learn, and that is great. “Farmers of color in the U.S. have long been disadvantaged by systemic and institutional racism, including discrimination in accessing credit, loans, resources, and markets.” There are many grant and fund programs acknowledging the racial disparity amongst farmers as well as how that plays out as access for colored communities.
Support Black-Owned Food Businesses
Support black-owned farms nationally and locally. Google black-owned farms near me, or feel free to check out this really great resource showing some of the black-owned farms in each state. This page shows each grantee awarded from the Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund and where they are located. This fund is provided by the rural advancement foundation international. Farmers of color makeup just 4% of all U.S. farmers. By buying from black-owned farms, we can increase this statistic.
Support Farms That Support Food Deserts
Supporting farms that provide access to food deserts is a great way to spend your dollar and play a role in the supply chain of the food economy. These farms are aware of the racial disparity and are working hard with the resources they have to bring nutritious food to places without access. Supporting like-minded farmers can help keep their mission and vision afloat and your efforts harmonious with theirs. According to the Fresh Wagon, a food truck that supports farms and brings local produce to areas that are food insecure, “Hungry families in a land of plenty is both a social problem and an ethical problem. Finding farms in your area and farmers markets in food deserts would be a great place to start or continue your intention to support racial justice with your food choices.
Let this be shouted from the rooftops. We need to prioritize racial justice as we prioritize food justice. We need to support people as we support good quality food. Equal access to food shouldn’t be a privilege, and there are many organizations and companies bringing awareness to this issue and many more we still need. As a consumer, awareness and empowerment with your choices around food can play a role in supporting racial justice with your food.