The fight for food justice
Once a week, I walk 1.3 miles to the nearest grocery store in the sweltering summer heat of Florida. I don’t own a car and there is no convenient bus line to get there. Before I got to know the area better, I walked a total of 3.6 miles each week to and from a different grocery store. I live in what is called a food desert.
The term “food desert” can be a bit misleading, conjuring up images of the Dust Bowl and dying crops, but it’s actually used to describe urban areas devoid of grocery stores offering healthy foods within a radius. one kilometer. They are often found in the same areas with a predominantly black and Hispanic population and a low median income. There may still be convenience stores and fast food outlets, but food desserts are particularly lacking in full-service grocery stores that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed meats.
The absence of these options and the substitution of more processed foods with less health value contribute greatly to obesity and diabetes rates in impoverished communities, which can turn fatal when these people also cannot afford. expensive drugs like insulin. Large grocery chains avoid building in these areas because they have lower profit potential, leaving people without access to the kind of food they need to lead healthy lives. Mobility is often limited in these areas, which only compounds the problem, with many not owning a car and only a few public transport options, which are deficient and underfunded.
Tallahassee has sizable food deserts, primarily in Frenchtown and much of the south side, which are predominantly black areas. The disparity between food options in black and white neighborhoods is a byproduct of decades of redlining – the process by which people of color are denied the same housing opportunities as whites – resulting in distinct racial majorities in neighborhoods specific and fabricated poverty based on these unjust. housing practices.
The root of the problem lies in the commodification of food, treating it as another source of profit rather than a basic need. Large grocery chains are launching franchises in places where they think they can make as much money as possible, which is a deterrent to opening stores in low-income areas. The areas they build often outperform competition from local businesses and reignite gentrification, so the cost of living nearby becomes higher. The desire for profit outweighs the need for healthy food options in low-income neighborhoods.
There are several community organizations that are cooperating with each other to fight back. Community gardens, pantries and charities communicate to coordinate food distribution across the city. Frenchtown Gardens, on Gaines Street, City Walk Urban Mission and beyond grow fresh produce that is shared with pantries like Second Harvest of the Big Bend and the one run by the Square Mug Café in Railroad Square, or groups that organize distribution events and networks like Food Not Bombs. City Walk, in particular, offers homeless people the opportunity to learn gardening skills and have a positive impact on the community while providing housing and helping them find employment. A common thread running through all of these organizations is the desire to help the community fight poverty and the scarcity of manufactured goods, and thrive without depending on the whims of indifferent businesses.
Food is a basic necessity without which no one can live. If human beings have the right to be alive, they have, by extension, the right to food; this is the fundamental principle of food justice. In addition, food sovereignty refers to the direct control of communities over the production and distribution of their food, free from interference by the interests of businesses and the politicians who support them. Beyond simply reducing hunger caused by food deserts, some organizations in Tallahassee such as Live Oak Radical Ecology are engaging in activism for these principles in order to stop injustice at its root rather than simply remedy the symptoms by strengthening food sovereignty in Tallahassee. They publish zines and informational brochures on creating your own garden, promoting native biodiversity, and effectively defending food justice and food sovereignty.
What can people do about food deserts if we are so disadvantaged in the balance of power? Working locally, growing food and volunteering with organizations that help distribute it is always helpful in relieving hunger.
Supporting the expansion of public transport might seem like an incongruous suggestion, but often a key issue in reaching stores with healthy food options is that many people in food deserts do not have a car and depend on public transport which often do not stop in their quarters. Decreasing the importance of the car as a primary mode of transportation and increasing options helps people get to where they need to go.
Fighting for small businesses and protecting them from crowding out big businesses also helps decentralize food distribution and helps enrich the economy of small communities. On a larger scale, work for the food sovereignty of peoples by giving them the means to produce their own food and by building food sharing networks so that communities are no longer dependent on the whims of multinational conglomerates.
No one should have to live without healthy food options. Working for food sovereignty in our community and beyond is the best way to prevent this from happening.