Blog: Patrick Crouch

How does your garden grow? Rather than silver bells and cockle shells, perennially practical Detroiters are turning city wasteland into food for the masses. Patrick Crouch, program manager of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen's Earthworks Urban Farm, will plant his ideas about food justice and permaculture in our heads this season.

Post 2: What is Food Justice?

Earthworks, the non-profit urban farm I work with, has as its main goal working for a just food system for all.

So just what is a just food system?  Forgive me if my answer comes off as a manifesto, or how it personifies safe food, but I just got rolling.  

The most simple answer is a just food system honors the basic human right that all people should have access to safe, appropriate food, but to expand on the thought, just what is safe or appropriate food?

Safe food is local.  This argument has little to do with the locavore craze, though there is some overlap.  Local food keeps wealth in the hands of the community. It does not extract wealth from that community.  Money spent to support local business goes seven times further than that used to support multinational agribusinesses.  Local foods are more nutrient-dense and of higher quality since they don't have to travel as long or as far, and in some cases have a lower carbon foot print because of the shorter distances. 

Local producers can more appropriately address the needs of the populace they serve, ensuring that the food is culturally appropriate.  Local foods put the producer close to the consumer.  Socially and environmentally unjust actions on the part of producers are much harder to ignore when they are in the backyard of consumers.  The dehumanizing effect that happens with distance is that much harder to take hold.
Safe food is not exploitative.  It respects the growers and assumes that they should have a right to fair wages and safe working conditions.   Safe food respects the earth by not using poisons or methods that degrade the soil or ground water.  Safe food respects the basic rights of animals to move freely, graze, and express themselves.
This practice supports local economies over export economies.  For all communities to be food secure, they must cover their local communities' needs before turning to export crops.  It focuses on basic necessities over luxury goods.  Safe food is not opposed to trade, but it focuses on local economy needs first.
Safe food supports control of food by the community that consumes it.  All too often, the reins of power within not just the food system but the capitalist system in general are held by those not from the community.  In order to best address the needs of the community it needs to be controlled by the community.  In order to assure that food is produced in a just manner, it needs to be controlled by the community. 

Those working for food justice are not afraid to ask the hard questions.  Those working for food justice are not afraid to reflect on their contributions to injustice and hold themselves accountable.  Those working for food justice seek to hear the voices of the voiceless, and to listen deeply to them and to value them.  Food justice works for justice throughout the world, for no part of the system can truly be just if the whole is not.

For more information on community food security, I recommend visiting the Community Food Security Coalition's website.  To learn more about food justice I recommend the Growing Food and Justice for All website.