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Cultivating Food Justice

Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability

Alison Hope Alkon
Julian Agyeman
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 404
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  • Book Info
    Cultivating Food Justice
    Book Description:

    Popularized by such best-selling authors as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser, a growing food movement urges us to support sustainable agriculture by eating fresh food produced on local family farms. But many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been systematically deprived of access to healthy and sustainable food. These communities have been actively prevented from producing their own food and often live in "food deserts" where fast food is more common than fresh food. Cultivating Food Justice describes their efforts to envision and create environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives to the food system. Bringing together insights from studies of environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, critical race theory, and food studies, Cultivating Food Justice highlights the ways race and class inequalities permeate the food system, from production to distribution to consumption. The studies offered in the book explore a range of important issues, including agricultural and land use policies that systematically disadvantage Native American, African American, Latino/a, and Asian American farmers and farmworkers; access problems in both urban and rural areas; efforts to create sustainable local food systems in low-income communities of color; and future directions for the food justice movement. These diverse accounts of the relationships among food, environmentalism, justice, race, and identity will help guide efforts to achieve a just and sustainable agriculture.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30021-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    I am pleased to present the seventh book in the Food, Health, and the Environment series. This series explores the global and local dimensions of food systems and examines issues of access, justice, and environmental and community well-being. It includes books that focus on the way food is grown, processed, manufactured, distributed, sold, and consumed. Among the matters addressed are what foods are available to communities and individuals, how those foods are obtained, and what health and environmental factors are embedded in food-system choices and outcomes. The series focuses not only on food security and well-being but also on regional,...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Food Movement as Polyculture
    (pp. 1-20)
    Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman

    Picture a field of corn stretching out into the horizon. Each evenly spaced stalk is genetically identical. Each needs exactly the same amount of water, fertilizer, sunlight, and time as every other. And each is ready for harvest at exactly the same moment. For this reason, the cultivation and collection of this field can be entirely mechanized. Heavy machinery has crossed this field many times, laying seed, applying fertilizer, and eventually gathering many tons of corn. Mechanized production is necessary on a farm of this size, as hand cultivation would be prohibitively expensive. This approach toward farming, called a monoculture,...

  6. I The Production of Unequal Access

    • 2 A Continuing Legacy: Institutional Racism, Hunger, and Nutritional Justice on the Klamath
      (pp. 23-46)
      Kari Marie Norgaard, Ron Reed and Carolina Van Horn

      Karuk people have relied directly on the land and rivers of the Klamath Mountains for food since “time immemorial.” So vast was the abundance of salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, lamprey, and forest food resources that the Karuk were among the wealthiest people in the region that would become known as California. These foods flourished in conjunction with sophisticated Karuk land management practices, including the regulation of the fisheries and the management of the forest through fire (Salter 2003; McEvoy 1986). Ceremonial practices including the First Salmon Ceremony regulated the timing of fishing to allow for escapement and thus continued prosperous runs....

    • 3 From the Past to the Present: Agricultural Development and Black Farmers in the American South
      (pp. 47-64)
      John J. Green, Eleanor M. Green and Anna M. Kleiner

      Action to achieve social justice in agrifood systems should be informed by research from a variety of perspectives. Yet, in scholarly literature concerning changes in American agrifood systems, minority producers and their communities have received limited attention. There are exceptions, of course, with the growing body of work on farmworkers and recent attention to new immigrant farmers being noteworthy. Unfortunately, the world of African American/black farmers has long gone understudied, although a small but vocal group of authors has made major contributions to our understanding of patterns of change occurring among these producers and their attempts to construct alternative organizations...

    • 4 Race and Regulation: Asian Immigrants in California Agriculture
      (pp. 65-86)
      Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Nancy Peluso, Jennifer Sowerwine and Christy Getz

      Yang¹ planted strawberries and a collection of “Asian” vegetables on his small, two-acre plot in Fresno County in California’s Central Valley. He and his wife handled the bulk of the labor, from time to time hiring in people to help. In the spring, as the strawberries began to fruit, family members from Fresno, Oakland, Richmond, and elsewhere showed up to help with the harvest—taking home small quantities of the fruit for their children and other family members in exchange for helping the Yangs get their strawberries to market. That is, they did until the day a Labor Standards Enforcement...

  7. II Consumption Denied

    • 5 From Industrial Garden to Food Desert: Demarcated Devaluation in the Flatlands of Oakland, California
      (pp. 89-120)
      Nathan McClintock

      A dilapidated liquor store stands at the corner of 17th and Center in West Oakland. With its plastic sign cracked and yellowed, its paint pockmarked and peeling away in long lesions from the store’s warped clapboard siding, it could be a clichéd metaphor for the decay of America’s “inner cities” during the postindustrial era (figure 5.1). But it is also representative of the disproportionate number of liquor stores in urban communities of color. Establishments such as these often serve as the sole food retailer in areas that planners and food justice activists have come to call “food deserts.”¹

      A recent...

    • 6 Farmworker Food Insecurity and the Production of Hunger in California
      (pp. 121-146)
      Sandy Brown and Christy Getz

      This chapter takes as its point of departure an apparent contradiction of contemporary U.S. agriculture, namely, that those who produce our nation’s food are among the most likely to be hungry or food insecure. For those familiar with farmworker communities, this irony comes as little surprise. Yet the lived realities of farmworkers are, more often than not, rendered invisible to the vast majority of people who rely on their labor for sustenance. In an effort to address this seeming paradox, the chapter explores the concept of food security with respect to California’s agricultural workforce.

      Data from the Fresno Farmworker Food...

  8. III Will Work for Food Justice

    • 7 Growing Food and Justice: Dismantling Racism through Sustainable Food Systems
      (pp. 149-176)
      Alfonso Morales

      Awareness of food and nutrition problems facing Americans has grown rapidly over the past five years, fueled by the writings of many including Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, the wide release of films likeSuper Size Me and Fast Food Nation, and the contributions of celebrity chefs such as Alice Waters and Odessa Piper who focus our attention on food-related inequalities and local foods. Paradoxically, many Americans, particularly low-income people and people of color, are overweight yet malnourished. They face an overwhelming variety of processed foods, but are unable to procure a well-balanced diet from the liquor stores and mini-marts...

    • 8 Community Food Security “For Us, By Us”: The Nation of Islam and the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church
      (pp. 177-196)
      Priscilla McCutcheon

      This excerpt is fromBlack Christian Nationalismwritten by Albert Cleage. In it he describes his beliefs and methods on how blacks should empower themselves in what he deems to be a white supremacist society. This book also provides an ideal starting point for exploring how two Black Nationalist religious organizations are using food not only as a means to address hunger, but also as a tool of empowerment among blacks. In 1999, the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (PAOCC) completed the purchase of over 1,500 acres of farmland on the border of Georgia and South Carolina to build a...

    • 9 Environmental and Food Justice: Toward Local, Slow, and Deep Food Systems
      (pp. 197-220)
      Teresa M. Mares and Devon G. Peña

      Recently, the second author had a fascinating conversation with an acquaintance who identifies as a vegan activist. Living in the Pacific Northwest, she is highly committed to the Slow Food Movement and explained her philosophy of the connections between slow and local food:

      If you go slow that means you also go local. Slow leads to local. I only eat local grains, veggies, fruits, and nuts. Every meal is slow-cooked from organic ingredients grown slowly by farmers that I know personally. Many are close friends and I often work on their farms for the food I need. I have become...

    • 10 Vegans of Color, Racialized Embodiment, and Problematics of the “Exotic”
      (pp. 221-238)
      A. Breeze Harper

      In 2007, Johanna, a vegan and woman of color, established an online forum calledVegans of Color. Resisting mainstream notions of veganism as separate from race/racism/racialization, the founder of the group stated: “This blog was started to give a voice to vegans of color. Many vegan spaces seem to be assumed (consciously or not) to be white by default, with the dialogue within often coming from a place of white privilege. We’re not single-issue here. All oppressions are connected.” From dealing with the problematic of “exotifying” nonwhite vegan foods as objects for the “white Eurocentric gaze,” to sharing narratives about...

    • 11 Realizing Rural Food Justice: Divergent Locals in the Northeastern United States
      (pp. 239-260)
      Jesse C. McEntee

      The local food movement has experienced wide-scale buy-in across the United States with advocates promoting the social, economic, and environmental benefits of local food initiatives. Although these initiatives may have experienced some success in promoting sustainable farming methods and supporting local farmers, they have overwhelmingly disregarded the needs of low-income consumers, especially in rural areas. Some exceptions to this trend exist in urban settings, such as sliding-scale payment options for low-income customers, but the vast majority of local food initiatives operate on capitalist principles, stressing profit, growth, and efficiency. As long as food distribution, regardless of its place on either...

  9. IV Future Directions

    • 12 “If They Only Knew”: The Unbearable Whiteness of Alternative Food
      (pp. 263-282)
      Julie Guthman

      “If people only knew where their food came from….” This phrase resounds in alternative food movements. My students voice it in the classroom, and it is often the first sentence of papers they write. It undergirds many of the efforts of local food system activists, who focus a good deal of effort in encouraging more personalized relationships between producers and consumers. It is the end goal for contemporary muckraking led by the likes of Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan whose writings on industrial food production practices often evoke a “yuck” reaction. It animates the long list of ingredients on upscale...

    • 13 Just Food?
      (pp. 283-308)
      E. Melanie DuPuis, Jill Lindsey Harrison and David Goodman

      In 2002, the title for the Community Food Security Coalition Conference in Seattle was “Think Globally, Act Locally.” In 2010, the title for the New Orleans conference is “Food, Culture and Justice: The Gumbo that Unites Us All.” As the titles and talks for this year’s conference indicate, local food movement activists have discovered the word “justice” and are rethinking localist strategies to link with more global food movements. This change reflects the fact that food movement groups are increasingly incorporating the wordjusticeon their Web pages, in their nonprofit names, and in the names of the programs they...

    • 14 Food Security, Food Justice, or Food Sovereignty?: Crises, Food Movements, and Regime Change
      (pp. 309-330)
      Eric Holt-Giménez

      2008 saw record levels of hunger for the world’s poor at a time of record harvests and record profits for the world’s major agrifoods corporations. The contradiction of increasing hunger in the midst of wealth and abundance unleashed a flurry of worldwide “food riots” not seen for many decades. These protests were sparked by skyrocketing food prices. In June of 2008, the World Bank reported that global food prices had risen 83 percent in three years and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cited a 45 percent increase in their world food price index in just nine months...

  10. 15 Conclusion: Cultivating the Fertile Field of Food Justice
    (pp. 331-348)
    Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman

    The central message of this book is that institutional racism intersects with an increasingly consolidated industrial agriculture to produce a variety of negative consequences for low-income people and people of color, and that an analysis of these processes can produce a broader critique of agribusiness than is currently offered by the food movement. Low-income people and people of color have been systematically denied access to the means of food production, and are often limited in their abilities to consume healthy foods. However, the food movement narrative ignores these injustices, an omission which reflects its adherents’ race and class privilege. The...

  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 349-350)
  12. Index
    (pp. 351-390)