Food Justice (Eating Green - part 1 of 3)
By Talia Whyte
I was selected earlier this year to be a 2009 Urban Environmental Justice Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, University of Southern California. I decided to do my project on food as an environmental justice, particularly because not many people know that food is a green issue. The industrialized food system, which until recently was seen as the less connected concern in the global climate change discussion, has actually created a significant carbon footprint. Some of the environmental problems that arisen over the years include soil depletion, food grown with insecticides and fertilizers, water pollution from factory farm waste and greenhouse gas emission from animals raised as livestock.
In addition to the environmental impact, our food system disproportionately affects the health of millions of Americans According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2.3 million Americans live more than 1 mile from a supermarket, do not have access to a vehicle, and thus live in true "food deserts" - areas where communities lack access to supermarkets and other sources of affordable, nutritious foods necessary for maintaining a healthy diet. In many communities, people have to resort to shopping at a convenience store or fast-food chain restaurants, where access to fresh food is almost no existent.
There have been many efforts by environmental justice advocates to bring organic foods to Boston’s most deprived communities over the years. The Food Project, one of the country’s leading food justice organizations, grows a variety of fruits and vegetables on a 1.4-acre farm outside of Dudley Square, land that was previously deemed to be dangerous due to lead in the ground, which has since been cleaned up. Their food is then harvested and sold at farmers’ markets in the community. Not only does the organization hire 60 youth farmers to work the land every summer, but community residents are also allowed to grow their own food on the land, like Vernell Jordan, who uses her patch of land to grow over 10 types of organic vegetables.
“It feels good to be eating good and taking care of the earth at the same time,” Jordan said.
What I like about the community farmers was that they were able to reconnect with their cultural roots through their foods. I met Cape Verdean immigrant Felicio Pina, grows corn in the Food Project's land with seeds native to his homeland. His corn stalks grow bigger than others in the farm because they have no genetic modifications.