Food Justice: What Our Children Deserve
The accessibility and availability of food across all global socio-economic levels has become an important topic of discussion when it comes to sustainability. We discuss at length the benefits of urban agriculture, the advantages of a localized food system, the importance of health and a connection with nature, but what we don’t address often are the social barriers in place which prevent the ultimate goal of food security. These social inequalities and the fight to eliminate them is called food justice.
The Food Justice Cycle
To create food justice we must understand the scope of the problem. Contributing factors to a current global state of food injustice include the widespread lack of availability to fresh, nutritious, healthy food like locally grown fruits and vegetables. This is what begins the vicious cycle of food injustice. Without healthy food, children are left educationally underdeveloped, they under-perform in school, and they lack the physical and mental health to achieve certain life goals, such as high school graduation, college applications, and even basic employment. They’re stuck in a black hole of low-income and high-obesity rates and bring the next generation into the world in a similar manner.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Access to fresh, healthy food shouldn’t be an elitist privilege. In fact, we know how basic it is to grow your own food. But it’s not happening quickly enough. According to the USDA, there are 23.5 million Americans living in food deserts. This mean that this generally low-income population doesn’t have access to affordable, healthy food options because grocery stores are too far away.
A food desert in low-income neighborhoods might also be characterized by a greater presence of liquor stores as opposed to grocery stores. These areas can be both urban and rural, and are frequently home to a population of ethnic minorities. Fast food franchises do extremely well under these conditions.
The food justice conversation is gaining traction thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama who has set a goal to eradicate food deserts in America by 2017. Her “Let’s Move” campaign challenges schools, parents, and children to set healthy living goals which include both diet and exercise benchmarks.
Food Justice & Positive Outcomes
Through awareness action is being taken to counter food deserts, break the cycle, and deliver food justice. There is no downside. By creating food justice we uplift a significant portion of the population that otherwise wouldn’t be able to contribute productively and to the best of their potential. We give them back their dignity, their education, and their health. They become better members of society and crimes rates are reduced. Medical costs decrease and employment rates increase. Children grow up healthier and with better education and opportunities. They go on to raise their own families with the same values and beliefs.
All of these positive outcomes can be achieved by the most basic of human needs: food. Though it may sound idealist it really isn’t. The exact solution of food justice is being applied in various capacities. And it’s working. It does however, ideally start with children. Children don’t have the choice as to where they grow up. But our society does have the choice to place a value on their health and education. Even as I write this I cry to think that this even has to be a conversation or debate. Children deserve the opportunity to make nutrition a fundamental component of their upbringing and that’s really what food justice is all about.Feature Image: Food and nutrition education for children. Image via Shutterstock.