University of Oregon Food Justice Conference: What is Food Justice?

University of Oregon's Food Justice Conference 2011

For 4 days in February of 2011, the University of Oregon’s Food Justice conference drew leaders together from the sustainability movement, farmers, scholars, educators, students, and others to examine the food system through the lens of community, equity, and sustainability concerns. In the video from this panel discussion, Keynote Roundtable: Food Justice & Farm Advocacy in the U.S., three of the panelist’s below share their views on what food justice means to them:

* Rachel Bristol, CEO, Oregon Food Bank
Deb Johnson-Shelton, President, Lane County (Oregon) Food Policy Council
* Young Kim, Executive Director, Fondy Food Center, Milwaukee
Tammy Morales, Principal, Urban Food Link
* Chris Schreiner, Executive Director, Oregon Tilth
Cynthia Torres, Director, Colorado Farmers Market Association
Moderator: Naomi Starkman, Co-founder of Civil Eats

* shown in the video

Why a quest for food justice? Does the food system require its own particular flavor of justice outside of the wider society? After all, if there is adequate justice in the world, wouldn’t that cover this sector equally as well? Or conversely, if justice is lacking in society as a whole, how then do we expect to make things right in one particular realm, but not the whole?

That is the conundrum at hand. For although food justice is a particular challenge within the agricultural system, (social, economic, and political) injustice are inextricably woven into the fabric of our society at large. The struggles of the working class (also now increasingly for those in the middle class too) must confront a host of common challenges including affordable access to healthcare, food insecurity, availability of livable wage jobs, systemic bias and discrimination toward the poor; and an increasing political tolerance for the acceptance of historically high levels of inequality in America.

Rising inequality feeds on itself, tipping the scales ever further away from the creation of a just society, food justice lies captive, rotting in the dormant social wind.


    • fred says

      I like your question. My 2 cents, it’s both, but in the beginning, food policy has to take the lead ahead of public perception, and individual awareness. Seems hard to imagine politicians sticking their necks out, armed only with solid information, and the will to do the right thing: promote healthier eating habits, reward farmers that grow whole foods that are environmentally friendly, help communities re-develop local and regional food systems, and provide an adequate safety net so that no American goes to bed hungry.

      For those who talk about America being an “exceptional” nation—for me, the above would be among the necessary requirements.

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