Food & Social Justice

By: Zoe Denckla

Martin Luther King Junior needs no introduction. Today, Americans celebrate and honor Dr. King and his fight for racial justice and civil rights. This third Monday in January commemorates Dr. King’s Birthday. MLK day became a federal holiday in 1986 meaning many have the day off from work and school. Yet, this break serves as an opportunity for us as a nation to actively reflect on both past and present social justice initiatives.

So here at HRN, we are taking this Monday to look back at how social justice has shaped our coverage throughout the past year. The intersections between food and social justice are endless. Included are stories from across our network on land reparations, farming equity, food education and workers’ rights. 

The Farm Report with Lisa Held Episode 419: Fighting for Black Farmers’ Land: The American agricultural system was built based on the enslavement of African people, and since emancipation, systematic discrimination against Black people within agriculture has persisted. In 1920, close to 1 million Black farmers made up about 14 percent of America’s farmers. In 2017, less than 50,000 Black farmers remained, making up just over 1 percent. In this episode, Dania Davy joins host Lisa Held to talk about the impacts of land loss, her work helping Black farmers and families keep their homes and land, and whether new policies in Washington will have a meaningful impact on the ground. Davy recently joined the Federation of Southern Cooperatives as the director of land retention and advocacy.

Fields S2 Episode 1: Tyrean Lewis and Reversing Food Apartheid Through Urban Ag
How does one commercial urban farm—Heru Urban Farming in St. Louis, Missouri—grow food for a community? Why did its founder and CEO, Tyrean Lewis, start down this path? Hear from Tyrean about his familial connection to the land and to giving back to his community, how he pursued urban agriculture full-time during a pandemic, and what he is hopeful for today. This episode talks about grants, accelerators, and—of course—the many delicious crops growing at Heru. Tyrean and the hosts also talk about food-system disparities and the role that urban agriculture can play in addressing them. 

Meat and Three Episode 135: Community Responses to Food Insecurity: From Fridges to Farmers Markets: Food insecurity in the U.S. is nothing new, but it has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. As food accessibility conditions shift and problems take on new proportions, communities continue to respond in new ways. Some have implemented matching programs at local farmers markets, others have installed community fridges for neighbors in need of groceries. Join us in this episode of Meat and Three as we explore how people are collaborating to combat food insecurity. 

Meant To Be Eaten Episode 119: Stephen Velasquez on Art and Activism: This episode is part of a collaboration with Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies hosted by Gastronomica editorial collective member Paula Johnson. In this episode, curator Stephen Velasquez discusses how activism and food history come together in a graphic calendar. The Calendario de Comida 1976, created by California-based artist collectives in 1975, sought to bring attention to alternative foodways and indigenous food knowledges as part of a broader social justice movement. Stephen discusses some of the imagery within the calendar and expands on the role of Chicano activists in reimagining colonial histories and identity.

Speaking Broadly Episode 157: The Gifts of Ghana: Zoe Adjonyoh: Chef and author Zoe Adjonyoh is one of the most vocal and visible advocates for Ghanaian food. This position made her uncomfortable for a long while. At the outset, as a third culture kid in London with an Irish mother and Ghanaian father, she even asked herself if she was appropriating her own culture. She only had a small repertoire of dishes she learned from her reticent dad. Eventually a trip to see relatives in Ghana cleared up the notion of one standardized cuisine and freed her to follow her own instincts as she created Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen in the UK. And in doing so found a larger mission. Listen in to hear about the journey from accidental pop-up star to determined social justice advocate through food. And check out her recently re-published book, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen!

Tech Bites Episode 243: Delivery Series: Los Deliveristas Unidos: Restaurant, food, and grocery delivery has never been more popular, nor more essential to people’s daily lives and the survival of the restaurant industry. Third-party delivery apps have dominated the space, dictating policies and payments for both home consumers and restaurants. Delivery workers created Los Deliveristas Unidos in 2020, demanding a living wage, essential protection from theft, violence, wage theft, and safety hazards. On this episode, host Jenifer Leuzzi talks with Glendy Tsitouras, worker’s rights organizer at the Worker’s Justice Project (WJP), and Juan Carlos Huerta, delivery driver and member of Los Deliveristas Unidos. This is episode two, of a three-part series that examines the current ecosystem of apps, restaurants, delivery workers, and consumers, seeking to shine a light on the real-world costs of delivery and convenience.

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