Food is a basic human right. A number of countries take food security seriously enough to have enshrined the right to food in their constitutions. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that “food is a fundamental human right” and that “hunger is both a violation of human dignity and an obstacle to social, political and economic progress.”
Food security is an important aspect of food justice, a more comprehensive concept that claims the right of local communities to grow and sell food that is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate, and produced with environmentally friendly practices while promoting the well-being of the land, workers and animals.
The monopolized industrial food system has other priorities that have little to do with health or justice. But the good news is the increasing availability of organic and local food and nutritional information to help make healthy choices, if one has the financial resources.
Unfortunately, not everyone does. Often inner cities, as well as some rural areas, are barren of healthy food choices, and have been designated by the USDA as food deserts. These food deserts are typically in low income areas and lack supermarkets, but are loaded with fast food joints and convenience stores.
With that in mind, about ten years ago, I organized Just Us for Food Justice (JU4FJ), a Bioneers initiative that brings together youth who are involved in food and farming projects in their communities, many of which are food deserts, to bolster the human right of access to healthy food. JU4FJ, day-long intensive workshops, helps develop an understanding of the food system, how it works, who it works for and how people can participate to take back control of their source of nourishment.
The program introduces young activists from Bay Area organizations to each other, and helps raise awareness of their role in the global food justice movement. We work with groups from Sebastopol to Salinas to build a network to share local food system knowledge.
Often the program involves making a meal together as we did at The Ceres Project, a youth empowerment program that makes healthy meals for people with serious illness. Permaculturist Pandora Thomas facilitated the morning session on Social Permaculture to help raise social intelligence and put an ecological perspective on how to design community projects and make positive changes in one’s personal life.
We also work with Gerardo Marin of Rooted in Community. Gera is a gifted cultural educator who teaches youth skills to strengthen their spiritual and emotional resilience and cultivate a deeper understanding and a grounded approach to food justice work. Verenice Farias Portela, also of Rooted in Community, brings an artistic connection to the work by integrating music and the arts with food justice themes using rap poetry and hip hop dance as relevant methods to ignite youth activism to build a local food system that is equitable, healthy and transparent. Verenice shares what food justice means to her in this short video.
JUFJ honors young activists who contribute to the social good in their communities. The program weaves together the elements of self-love, mindfulness, food sovereignty, culture and skill-building activities.
The work that the youth are doing in their communities, under very challenging circumstances, is critically important and inspiring. Bioneers wants to support and elevate their efforts as much as possible by expanding the JU4FJ program. Please stand up for the fundamental human right of access to healthy food and help us foster food justice where it is needed most.
Director – Restorative Food Systems