Recent Articles About Food Justice

School is letting out, and the back parking lot of Laurel Elementary School in East Oakland bustles with activity. As children stream out of the building, many join their parents and caregivers in line at the bi-monthly mobile food pantry run by the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Together, the children and adults select apples, oranges, and onions from the produce-only pantry.

Sherrie Lowe, who has two children and a grandchild at Laurel, has been using mobile pantries at the school for three or four years now. For her, the mobile pantry is all about convenience. “You pick up your kids, you pick up your fruit, you pick up your vegetables all at one stop,” she says amidst the lively activity of the pantry line. Read more

In the late 1990s, Brahm Ahmadi worked on environmental justice campaigns to shut down polluting factories in Oakland’s low-income communities. He lived in West Oakland, a predominately African-American neighborhood, where his work sometimes kept him in his own backyard. As a young organizer, a big part of his job was community engagement. Amidst the ongoing dialogue, Ahmadi repeatedly encountered complaints about the lack of access to a decent grocery store. What he was hearing—from one resident after another—was that they were tired of having to travel to stock up on basic foods.

For awhile, we’d just say, ‘thanks you for input,’ then we’d park it,” says Ahmadi. “But it kept coming up. After awhile I realized it wasn’t just a tangent.” Read more

There are two options for buying groceries near Cathy’s home in West Oakland, California: a tiny and sometimes expensive co-op and a 99 cent store. Although she loves the co-op, they’re only open until 8 p.m. during the week and 4 p.m. on weekends. The 99 cent store is open until 9 p.m., but its produce and dairy offerings are limited and often teeter on the edge of their expiration dates. Read more

Dennis Lane has owned a 7-Eleven franchise in Quincy, Massachusetts for 42 years. He says many of his customers use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) benefits to buy staple foods.

“I sell 150 gallons of milk a day in my neighborhood,” he said. “A lot of those folks use SNAP.”

Soon, Lane’s store’s SNAP eligibility could be in question due to a recently proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would require retailers to stock an expanded list of foods to remain eligible for participation in the food assistance program. The rule would also eliminate from the SNAP program retailers with 15 percent or more of their store sales from hot, prepared food. Read more

President Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan, last week brought renewed focus to the impacts of environmental racism.

Far too many minority families live in toxic and impoverished environments. They live next to congested interstate highways, emissions spewing power plants, and smog pumping refineries. Flint’s crisis is the result of negligence by city and state officials, but it also reflects a larger reality about what it means to grow up poor in America.

Like many cities, Flint is also a wasteland for affordable sources of nutrition, making it a classic food desert. Read more

At a rally in downtown Manhattan last week, a group of street vendors held up signs covered with images of New York City’s most famous street foods: hot dogs, pretzels, coffee, and tacos.

Their intention was not to entice potential lunch hour customers, however. Instead, their signs read: “Feeding NYC feeds our families” and “We need a permit to serve you” and the group chanted “vendor power! vender power!” Read more

“When I was in the second or third grade, we went to the outdoor education center, which was like an old farm,” Gibson recalls. “They had farm animals they shipped in only when kids came in.” But they gave the children, including Gibson, some seeds to take home. “I grew tomatoes on a little strip of grass at our apartment complex, but I didn’t like them. So I gave them away,” he says. Read more

Carl Schurz High School isn’t technically located in a “food desert,” but it might as well be. Nine out of 10 students attending this Chicago high school come from low-income households, where highly processed foods and fast food are the norm.

Yet, a surprising development is unfolding within these very walls. On a particularly cold February day, with snow still on the ground, many Carl Schurz students were served fresh micro-greens as part of their Chicago Public School-provided lunch. Read more