Our Best Food Justice Stories of 2021 | Civil Eats

Our Best Food Justice Stories of 2021

We continued our deep reporting on how marginalized communities—including the poor, people of color, and Indigenous peoples—worked to right long-standing, historic wrongs. 

Robert Bullard leads a delegation from HBCUs during the People's Climate March.

The ways in which communities of color are working toward access to healthy and nutritious food has long been central to Civil Eats’ coverage. This year, we dug deeper into the inequities that have historically pervaded the U.S. food system, ranging from Black farmers who continue to face systemic racism within the agricultural industry to the food apartheid that continues to persist nationwide.

Despite the weight of a second year of pandemic, we saw much cause for optimism in our coverage, as Indigenous tribes took steps to reclaim their land and foodways, queer, BIPOC farmers continued to carve out a niche of their own, and serious efforts began underway to right long-standing, historic wrongs. Here are some of our best food justice stories of 2021.

Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem?
BIPOC farmers and advocates say the latest trend in agriculture is built on an age-old pattern of cultural theft and appropriation.

an inmate receives a fresh orange instead of unhealthy prison foodAs COVID-19 Ups the Stakes, Advocates Say Prison Food Needs an Overhaul
A new report shines a light on the low-quality food served to 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. Healthier food is possible—and on the agenda in some prisons.

The Pandemic Reveals Racial Gaps in School Meal Access
Researchers are documenting the ways food distribution locations have been out of reach for Black and Latinx families.

Will Biden’s Food and Agriculture Appointees Live Up to His Promises on Racial Justice?
What we know so far about how the Biden administration is prioritizing diversity and justice in federal food policy.

A cropped version of the Minari poster showing an asian american farm family. Poster courtesy of A24

‘Minari’ Shines a Spotlight on Asian American Farmers
The film chronicles the journey of a Korean American family farming in 1980s Arkansas, and resonates with farmers who see their own experiences reflected.

How a Food Business Incubator Is Building Black Economic Strength in Minnesota
With new funding, African Economic Development Solutions hopes to foster culture and community with a Pan-African immigrant cooperative market.

Tracy McCurty Has Worked a Long Time to See Historic Wrongs Righted for Black Farmers
The director of the Black Belt Justice Center discusses the systemic racism Black farmers have suffered, and the impact the new American Rescue Plan might have on their legacies and livelihoods.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty Movements Are Taking Back Ancestral Land
From fishing rights off Nova Scotia, to grazing in Oklahoma and salmon habitats on the Klamath River, tribal groups are reclaiming their land and foodways.

A queer farmer at Rock Steady Farm.Queer, BIPOC Farmers are Working for a More Inclusive and Just Farming Culture
Young, queer farmers of color say they encounter high rates of racism, sexism, and other forms of identity-based oppression in farm country. Here’s how they’re working to change that.

Could Price Parity, Supply Management Change the Game for BIPOC Farmers?
The Disparity to Parity coalition says racial justice in farming depends on policies that guarantee farmers are paid more than the cost of production.

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Dr. Rupa Marya. (Photo credit: Jennifer Graham)

This Doctor Is Working to Build Resilience and Land Justice for Communities of Color
Rupa Marya discusses land rematriation, a new Indigenous-led farm, and the long-term effects of colonization on food and medicine in vulnerable communities.

The Race to Transform a Wisconsin Farm into a Justice-Focused Agrihood
A grassroots group is hoping to outbid deep-pocketed developers in a race to turn a 65-acre farm into a beacon of social and environmental justice.

Has the ‘Buy Black’ Movement Made a Difference for Food Entrepreneurs?
The movement for Black Lives has directed attention to Black restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, and producers, but long-term investment is still lacking.

a collage of racist food packaging on supermarket shelvesWhy Did It Take So Long for Food Companies to Rebrand their Racist Products?
Brands like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, and Land O’Lakes scrapped their stereotypical logos amid calls for racial justice. Some question whether the changes are merely performative, or signs of a longer-term shift.

‘High on the Hog’ Celebrates Black Contributions to Global Food and Culture
Stephen Satterfield, the host of the new Netflix docuseries, shares his experience participating in a screen adaptation of Dr. Jessica B. Harris’s work, the power of film to shift and reclaim narratives, and the beauty and joy of the African food diaspora.

In St. Louis, Tosha Phonix is Growing Food Justice
How the organizer is supporting Black farmers, creating a community-owned grocery store, and expanding food access in her city.

Dr. Robert Bullard: ‘We Don’t Have 40 Years’ to Fight for Climate Justice
The ‘father of environmental justice’ discusses the legacy of his work, how systemic racism in agriculture is tied to the larger injustices faced by Black and brown communities, and what brings him hope in this moment.

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For Some Native Americans, Pregnancy Helps Forge a Path Toward Traditional Foods
With Native Americans experiencing the nation’s second highest risk of pregnancy-related mortality, a renewed focus on traditional foods is helping them achieve healthy births while addressing ongoing traumas of colonization and food apartheid.

Brienne Allan pouring a beer at notch brewery. (Photograph by Iaritza Menjivar, provided by Brienne Allan)

Craft Beer Faces a Gender and Race Reckoning
An industry that has long touted its equity and progressive values is finally being forced to address its ‘white dudes with beards’ problem.

Black Farmers Still Await Debt Relief as Lawmakers Resolve Racist Lawsuits
The Biden administration’s efforts to correct historic wrongs are being contested by white farmers and banks. Congress might have a path forward.

Fighting Food Apartheid with Louisville’s Black Market Grocery Store
When the city’s West End neighborhood was cut off from its only grocery store, activist Shauntrice Martin galvanized her community—and carved out a new market connecting low-income shoppers with Black farmers.

Since 2009, the Civil Eats editorial team has published award-winning and groundbreaking news and commentary about the American food system, and worked to make complicated, underreported stories—on climate change, the environment, social justice, animal welfare, policy, health, nutrition, and the farm bill— more accessible to a mainstream audience. Read more >

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