As the murder of George Floyd has shocked the nation into protest and the realities of systemic racism are further exposed, it is important to consider just how deeply this racism permeates. As the farmers market pavilion in Ithaca opens for its 46th year and many home gardens in the upstate region finally begin to flourish after a long winter’s frost, it is incredibly important to consider the intersection of food and racial justice.
Our country was founded on colonialism and inequality. These same inequalities proliferate into our current food system, creating vast disparities in access to food and land. As a growing number of movements seek to dismantle our current food system in hopes of erecting one founded on principles of sustainability, health and justice, we must also acknowledge that food justice is racial justice. There can be no food sovereignty without sovereignty for all peoples.
People of color are four times more likely to live in a food desert and are often concentrated around fast food restaurants and simple convenience stores. The consequences of a lack of access to affordable and healthy food are seen in the rise of food-related health concerns, such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and strokes among people of color3. Furthermore, a lack of access to capital and land leaves people of color unable to connect to their food and community or establish a sense of place rooted in their every meal.
The intent of this article is not to serve as a complete history or explanation of the current food injustices perpetuated by structural racism, but, rather, to serve as a resource for further education and ways to support racially-just food sovereignty movements. As long summer days give way to a bountiful harvest, I encourage everyone to deeply consider their food purchases and the system these purchases support. This article also includes a list of Black-owned farms, groceries and restaurants local to Ithaca.
Food justice reads:
Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land – Leah Penniman
Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power – Psyche A. Williams-Forson
Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century – Kyla Wazana Tompkins
Freedom Farmer: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement – Monica White
Sistah Vegan – A. Breeze Harper
The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century – Grace Lee Boggs
Notes from a Young Black Chef – Kwame Onwuachi
Food justice films:
The Great Laws of Nature: Indigenous Organic Agriculture Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn1ym5r7pqg
Gather (Summer 2020 release) – @gatherfilm
Rooted (2021 release) – https://rootedfilm.com/
Food justice organizations (accepting donations):
Black Dirt Collective – https://www.facebook.com/blackdirtfarmcollective/
Black Urban Growers – https://www.blackurbangrowers.org/
Soul Fire Farm – http://www.soulfirefarm.org/
F.A.R.M.S. (Family Agricultural Resource Management Services) – https://www.30000acres.org/
The National Black Farmer’s Association – http://www.nationalblackfarmersassociation.org/
Food First – https://foodfirst.org/
HEAL Food Alliance – https://healfoodalliance.org/
The Land Loss Prevention Project – https://www.landloss.org/
For further continuing education resources, visit Soul Fire Farm’s education document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18Wa3UJ3xHvMrsvRLy38qXyPsX5BWfj4NgVcgMolfZfA/edit?fbclid=IwAR3S2OOhYAID7DdU5I8fefHOaYL0XhAG5hOjkoTc5jlcuaEBjFZxoZIvKLU#heading=h.unw7ktt2xrl4
For action items, visit Soul Fire Farm’s action & policy document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dt0hicyhGdJSKlC3qyE1AbG9fdDrONjUh_M_bE0KMGs/edit
Black-owned farms in Ithaca:
Rocky Acres Community Farms
Blue Oyster Cultivation Farm
Fort Baptist Farm
The Learning Farm Juicery
Van Noble Farms
Black-owned eateries & catering in Ithaca:
Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine
Rashida Sawyer Bakery
Hotspot Grill @ the Westy
Mix Social Club
Nu Spice Catering
Forest City Lodge
Brianna Johnson is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].