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Prioritising food justice

News | Published  27 March 2023

At Eating Better, we are reflecting on what food justice looks like to us. We are starting to critically examine the role we play in transformation towards sustainable, healthy, just food systems. 

We understand that it is not simply enough to acknowledge that there is an issue, we are also committed to actively listening, learning, raising awareness and transforming awareness into action. We have compiled a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy statement illustrating the key areas we are focusing on for the coming year.

What is food justice?

Food systems are complex but so is the mission of transforming them. The concept of food justice encompasses many parallel issues in the food movement. In essence food justice is ‘A holistic and structural view of the food system that sees healthy food as a human right and addresses structural barriers to that right’. This approach addresses questions of land access, agricultural practices, access to healthy and affordable food, diet-related health inequalities, distribution of resources and workers' rights.

Food justice highlights the structural injustices that cause disparities in the food system; roots that are closely tied to racial and economic justice.

What does it look like in practice? 

In practice this approach can look like promoting and building transformative frameworks in which all — including those living in low-income neighbourhoods and communities of colour — can fully participate, thrive, and benefit. 

It is a system that, from farm to table, from processing to disposal, ensures economic opportunity which includes good quality jobs with living wages, safe working conditions, access to nutritious, culturally appropriate and affordable food; and ensures environmental sustainability.

Workers rights are key to a sustainable food system

Addressing food justice does not happen simply through increased widespread access to good food but it also happens through improving the working conditions of the people who make our food possible.

Globally, La Via Campesina is a growing movement that articulates the rights, experiences and voices of farmers and landworkers. The movement coined the term food sovereignty, which is seen as a strand of food justice. It focuses on supporting long-term regional, national, and international political action. Landworkers Alliance is a member of La Via Campesina and Eating Better. They campaign for the right for food, influences policy and advocates for better working conditions for agroecological farmers and growers across the UK.

Solidarity Across Land Trades (SALT) is a newly formed grassroots union organising around solidarity, justice and care for people working on all land-related trades.

Solidarity not charity

The pandemic and the rise of living costs in the UK has shone a light on how fragile our food system is and the way it exacerbates the existing challenges racialised and low-income communities face. Since the pandemic, we have witnessed how mutual aid and local food partnerships have met the challenges of our fractured food system. According to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), charitable aid models are no longer sustainable options for tackling food insecurity. IFAN plays an important role in advocating for changes that look beyond food banks; urging the government and local authorities to address the root causes of food poverty.

Sustainable Food Places is a membership of food partnerships in the UK, who are taking collaborative approaches to tackling this issue through innovation and piloting alternative models such as food co-ops, food clubs, community food shops and kitchens. These initiatives explore fair methods that allow people the dignity and choice of the food they get.

Granville Community Kitchen is empowering the community through food – working on the front lines in an area of high deprivation and health inequalities in London where many families and people are experiencing poverty and limited access to good food. Granville organises around providing sustainable and culturally appropriate food along with supporting opportunities for learning and education. Championing food education is a crucial part of removing barriers to accessing healthy and affordable food. It provides individuals and groups the chance to make informed decisions about the food that they eat.

Food justice is racial justice

Racial inequalities exist in all levels of the food system. When it comes to representation according to the 2017 Policy Exchange report, the agricultural and environmental sector are the least diverse sectors in the UK. Many grassroots groups and organisations are challenging these realities. Jumping Fences is a collaborative project that provides evidence from the lived experiences of Black People and People of Colour (BPoC) working in farming and land work sectors in Britain, drawing attention to the restricted access to land, financial challenges, racial aggressions and isolation faced in the sector and in rural Britain. Furthermore, the report provides recommendations for action and policy aimed at addressing the barriers faced by BPoC people.

Eating Better member Feedback works on shifting the narrative in the sustainable food space, building a framework rooted in racial and food justice. Following on from the successful delivery of the EcoTalent programme which focused on building a more inclusive food and farming sector, Feedback has been developing a new fellowship programme that works to centre racial justice and the lived experience of BPoC communities in food system transformation. Through the fostering of partnerships between BPoC communities, social justice organisations and those in the progressive food and farming sector, this project will not only establish fellowship placements for young black and people of colour, it will also establish new and sustainable cross-sector partnerships.

A key approach to this work is to move beyond diversifying the sector and towards the deeper work of addressing the structural racism that exists in the sector and our food systems.

The way forward

We are living in a state of multiple crises from health, to food, nature and climate. Now more than ever, food movements need to acknowledge uncomfortable realities and start building frameworks and tools that embed food justice principles and equity in all levels of organisational structures and initiatives. The projects mentioned above illustrate the many possibilities and how food justice comes in many forms. The concept offers us the opportunity to re-imagine systems that are not solely profit driven but driven by the need to feed populations in ways that are sustainable and fair.