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Food Justice

In her book, Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism, Julie Guthman argues that simply buying organic, local, or otherwise environmentally friendly foods is not sufficient to reform the food system.

Rather, she suggests that such approaches simply allow the affluent to opt out of the current system.

Meanwhile, the vast majority continue to purchase pesticide-laden, hormone-contaminated, environmentally unfriendly food produced by exploited agricultural workers because they cannot afford to do otherwise.

Purchasing organic, local foods certainly provides many benefits for buyers, local farmers, and a small percentage of farm workers who will not be exposed to pesticides.

It also helps the environment because it cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by reducing transportation miles and benefits animals because organic farming methods usually allow them to lead more natural lives.

However, advocates of food justice assert that we must go beyond simply making ethical purchasing choices for ourselves if we want to create a better food system that benefits everyone rather than the privileged few.

Robert Gottlieb and Anapama Joshi, authors of Food Justice, define food justice as a movement that seeks to create a fair food system wherein the risks and benefits of food production, distribution, and consumption are shared equally. The movement seeks to eliminate food-related inequities via a number of different activities, often undertaken in collaboration with allied movements such as environmentalism, health protection, workers’ rights, community development, social justice, and cultural integrity.

What does this mean in practice? Promoters of food justice advocate to various levels of government and disseminate information with the goal of changing harmful policies, supporting local food systems, and increasing food security. In addition, many food justice advocates engage in other activities designed to ensure that:

Food production systems are sustainable.
All people have enough to eat.
Foods are free of toxins.
The health of the environment and its overall biodiversity are maintained.
Those who are employed within the food system have safe working conditions.

For more information on food justice go to FoodJusticeBook.org.

Gottlieb, R., & Joshi, A., “What Is Food Justice?” FoodJusticeBook.org, 27 July 2010.
Guthman, J., Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism, University of California Press, 2011.

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