The People's Grocery: Paving the Way to an Inclusive Food System | Civil Eats

The People’s Grocery: Paving the Way to an Inclusive Food System

Access to food that is good, clean and fair is an issue of great importance when we talk about changing the food system. Many would argue that education is the key to changing the way people think about food, but how to reach out to people in underserved communities? Last week, we featured a video on Growing Power, the Milwaukee-based non-profit farm education program started by Will Allen, recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant this year. Above is another video, featuring the work happening at the People’s Grocery in West Oakland, where as you will hear on the video, there are 50 liquor stores and not one grocery store. This disparity in food access is unjust, and cannot exist if we are to have a better food system.

That’s where places like the People’s Grocery come in. Many complain that sustainable food is too expensive for those in the inner-city. But the fact of the matter is that processed foods are unnaturally cheap, guarded by subsidies, and have been made more widely available. There is another way. Inclusive programs that pave the way for communities, working together, to challenge the status quo of unhealthy food are popping up all over the United States, and are challenging the old tried and true ways of accessing food.

Access is a primary issue, and I hope we keep addressing it every time we speak about the changes we seek in our food system. If we don’t, food will continue to be seen as an issue of the elites, one that politicians will not touch for fear of mudslinging. But food, as we found out at Food for Thought, is a subject that touches all sides of the issues. Energy (Are our local food ways viable enough to provide food to communities should we experience an oil shortage?) Immigration (Who is growing and cooking our food? Are they being paid a fair wage?) Environment (How do we change the practices of feedlot operations, proven to be poisoning our land and waterways? How does global warming affect global food supply?) Education (Is what children are eating at school affecting how they learn? Do children know where food comes from?), etc. In reaching out to the most vulnerable, we are building a bridge to a bigger conversation about food.

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Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

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