I munched down my rabbit food (read: all-vegetarian meal) while on Youtube, following Texan Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster against SB 5, which would ultimately restrict access to abortions in the state of Texas. To the left of me sat nine Berkeley co-opers, discussing their dietary habits. The discussion quickly spiraled out of control. “My brother-in-law is raw vegan! [insert sounds of awe here]” “Processed foods have so much sodium in them. I don’t know why people ever eat them.” or possibly the best comment of all — “so many people’s health problems would go away if they would just eat healthy and exercise.”
(Yes, honey, well some people can’t afford healthy produce, and they’re so expensive compared to a bag of chips. Plus some neighborhoods aren’t really ones you would want to stroll around for fear of violence. #checkyourprivilege)
I never really understood food justice as a form of social activism or why it is so imperative that we buy local, organic food to advance its cause. Before I had joined this co-op, I had my own imagined ideas about food justice values, which encompassed (1) care and responsibility for the environment from which we derive our food, (2) fight for equal access to healthy foods regardless of socio-economic class, and (3) nuanced understanding of the intersections between labor organizing and food justice.
So far, all I have heard in terms of action from these so-called “food justice activists” is going vegetarian and eating local, organic food — which is a markedly privileged way of exempting themselves from the struggle for healthy food. I understand that the tactic is to exert consumer pressure on these corporations, but merely avoiding processed foods and handing out pamphlets of cute piglets to protest animal cruelty is not enough. When navigating any site of struggle, one must understand their own privilege and position as to not unknowingly hinder other struggles or achieve one’s cause at the cost of another.
I’ve always been interested in food justice, but perhaps I need to find a brand of food justice that is just “stronger in color” than this white Berkeley co-op.
See more on Food Justice + Communities of Color:
- Applied Research Center’s Food Justice Report: Good Food and Good Jobs for All
- Brown Girl Farming’s “Color of Food” Documentary + Blog
- ColorLines.com Tagged “Food Justice” articles
- Sistah Vegan Project on Race & Gender Issues within Veganism