On Monday, I had a fascinating conversation with two women who are starting a website about women and politics. But it’s not what you may think. It’s not a website dedicated to celebrating prominent female politicians, or discussing how various political issues impact the way that women are likely to vote in the upcoming election. Rather, the website will examine how, as women, so many facets of our lives – from what we wear to what we eat – affect and are affected by the political landscape.
When the conversation turned to food, I explained my views on the food justice movement. The reason it has that name is because food is truly a social justice issue. It is deeply political on all levels. Food is genetically modified and sprayed with toxic pesticides and herbicides largely due to the political power of large chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow, as well as their lobbyists. Read this article for more information.
When it comes to food access, it is largely low-income people of color who live in communities that lack grocery stores providing healthy foods. Instead, residents of these communities must buy most of their groceries from corner stores, where the products available tend to be processed and high in artificial additives, fat, and sugar. It is a form of institutionalized racism.
What’s more, in communities where there are satisfactory grocery stores, those stores are often owned by large corporations based in distant cities, meaning that the profits they generate do not benefit the local economy.
Finally, there are injustices and racism at all levels of the food production industry. Fruit and vegetable pickers, factory workers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, and fast food employees are frequently underpaid, overworked, and deprived of health benefits. In addition, employees of color at all levels of food production make less money and are less likely to hold management positions than their white counterparts, as this study explains.
Food, like many facets of our lives, is a deeply political issue. My recent conversation reminded me of the importance of not taking the ordinary for granted. Why are things the way they are? What is going on beneath the surface of our daily lives, and do we approve of it? This is the line of thinking that the Occupy Movement is promoting. Just as there are underlying reasons that explain why many of us are unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid, there are underlying forces that determine what we eat. And it is important to understand the way that often unseen system works, so that we can try to change it.