On March 12 our conversation wove its way around the theme of “inherent racism in the food system”. Of course, systemic racism, by nature, shows up everywhere, from schools to agricultural fields to the Senate, and the notes from our conversation reflect that. Here is a brief summary of that conversation, complete with resources and recommendations for further reading. A big thank you to everyone for showing up and diving in.
In case you feel glum after reading this post, here is a recipe for those Iglis (steamed Indian rice balls) we were talking about:
1. School Nutrition and Community-Oriented Programs
We briefly touched on the ways that segregation and inequity in our school system ties into food justice through the varying quality of school food programs and community access to quality, affordable produce. Right now, federal budget cuts are posing an immediate threat to food security for public school students. There are certainly programs out there (Food Corps, Project Bread’s “Chefs in Schools”, and City Sprouts to name a few) that aim to improve school nutrition and bring kids into the garden, but unlike federal school food programs, they don’t reach every student in every public school.
2. The Effect of Trump’s Policies on Agricultural and Restaurant Workers
We established that the abuse and mass deportations of undocumented (and documented) farm laborers is certainly not new. However, Trump’s xenophobic immigration policies have already begun to destabilize the food system and violently affect the lives of workers even further. In her article, “If You Care About Food, You Need to Care About Immigration Policy”, Helen Rosner reports that Trumps policies will likely result in even more jobs disappearing as agricultural operations relocate abroad and larger farms continue to mechanize”. Our discussion of increasing fear and violence towards immigrants eventually led up to the question, “How can we, as people with social capital, show up for undocumented people who don’t?”
One response is to ally with workers who are already organizing for dignity, safety, and equal protection under the law. I personally plan to explore legal defense funds set up for detainees and emergency response trainings for ICE raids. The Immigrant Defense Project has a lot of good resources for different interest groups here: https://www.immigrantdefenseproject.org/raids-toolkit/
We also spoke about the role of consumers in pushing the labeling of foods produced with fair labor practices. One idea was to push Zagat and Yelp to add labor practices and sanctuary status to their websites.
3. Sanctuary Restaurants
Sanctuary restaurants (http://sanctuaryrestaurants.org/) are also gaining attention as a symbolic response to Trump’s immigration policies. Sanctuary restaurants stood in solidarity as workers striked nationally in February for the “Day Without an Immigrant” and have created visibility for the movement. On May 1st, Movimiento Cosecha, “a nonviolent movement working to win permanent protection, dignity and respect for the 11 million undocumented people in this country” is organizing another day without an immigrant strike. To get involved, visit their website here http://movimientocosecha.com/
Additional Potluck Morsels (Resources):
Zoë Fahy is an elementary school teacher, dancer, and activist from Boston with a background in Environmental Studies.