Ithaca’s Growing Food Justice Movement

By Kirtrina Baxter

The food justice movement in Ithaca and surrounding areas is spreading fast. What exactly is a food justice movement, you ask? Well, according to Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi, authors of the book Food Justice,

Food advocates may work on several different issue areas, but share the common goal of challenging the injustices that exist throughout the dominant industrial and increasingly globalized food system. By striving to alleviate these injustices in the entire food system, the Food Justice movement is linked to and supports allied movements such as those related to the environment, land use, health, immigration, worker rights, economic and community development, cultural integrity, and social justice.”

For decades, there has been a robust local foods movement in our area, promoting healthier ways to eat while educating people on sustaining our community. However, because the planning of this was not inclusive, ultimately the benefits of this movement have not been shared by all. The food justice movement strives to correct this fact by engaging communities of color and those of limited means so that they too have access to affordable, healthy food choices. Not only that, but the food justice movement serves to include diverse voices in the planning of a local food system that benefits all populations of our community and address issues of disparities and inequities. But as the definition above alludes to, the food justice movement seeks to provide a holistic approach to addressing the inadequacies of our current food system.

The fight against our current food system is also about community health. The rates of diabetes and high blood pressure disproportionately affect people in communities of color and next, people in lower income ranges. Information about the connections between our health and our eating habits are being addressed somewhat by health agencies, however, giving community members the resources to access culturally relevant food solutions is still a large problem. 

I believe that if we educate our communities to be conscious consumers, then they would chose what is best for their families and community. I also believe that until such time as we all have the information and knowledge necessary to be conscious about our food choices, our goal as a community should be to help pass knowledge and information along by any means at our disposal. Someone could share with a neighbor about their garden and how much it feeds their family, one could start a community garden in their neighborhood, or one could choose to research and find ways to eat healthier, modeling those practices that will help to sustain our community more. Then there are those of us who volunteer or work to get information out to our communities via schools, agencies, programs and more.

As part of a growing food justice movement, Greenstar Community Projects (GSCP) and its collaborative partners have been serving our community on various levels.

In our schools: 
Ithaca Community Harvest’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program serve elementary students a cup of fruits and vegetables every day at BJM.  Also, The Youth Farm Project engages a diverse body of teenagers from our local schools. While teaching them to grow organic produce on a farm for their community and families, they also educate them around issues of social justice related to the food industry.  

In our community: 
The Congo Square Market provides an outlet for this locally grown produce of the Youth Farm Project while Gardens4Humanity, which is also educating our children in after-school programs about gardening and agriculture, helps citizens and organizations to establish community gardens in their area. GSCP’s market box pilot provided locally grown organic produce to BJM, Southside and GIAC families twice a month during fall at a reduced cost, while also providing them with nutrition information and culturally appropriate recipe ideas.
Also in the community, our partners are providing access to agricultural skills building. Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming offers a Summer Practicum in sustainable farming and local food through TC-3 and a beginning farmer trainer course. Gardens4Humanity also provides training in urban gardening and food justice. And all of our partners are committed to connecting local citizens with the local farmers who grow their food, through crop mobs, gleaning, farm field trips and community volunteer days.

Food justice is not just about food, it’s about our right as humans to access that which is necessary for us to live. Food is a basic human right and as such, we should be aware of the discrimination and injustice in our current food system and work together as a community to correct this. The Institute for Food and Development Policy had this to say about food justice advocates: “We are also committed to dismantling racism in the food system and believe in people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.Read more…

In order for us to effectively move forward on the issue of sustaining ourselves as a community, we must ensure that voices from our diverse community of citizens are represented as we move forward. In that vein, this Food Justice Summit strives to engage the “whole” community in a family day of fun to help raise funds towards the efforts mentioned above, while also providing community members with access to information and resources around agriculture, health, worker’s rights, farm and food related industries, and many other opportunities previously unavailable to them.

There are many layers and levels to how we can contribute to this food justice movement. Together these practices will form the necessary knowledge base within this community that is needed for us to become informed citizens in charge of our own destiny with regard to our quality of life. Together we will walk on October 22nd to help with the fight to inform and empower all community members to know and act in the best interest of the whole, with regard for our food system!

Kirtrina Baxter is the Program Director of GreenStar Community Projects. To learn more, visit the Food Justice Summit’s website.