When I first started dreaming about starting Jewish Food Hero in 2014, I felt an urgency to support the Jewish community in eating healthier food and a desire to be part of the solution in working toward food justice for people worldwide.
Food justice is defined in a variety of ways, depending on who you talk to. The definition I resonate with most is from the nonprofit Just Food which describes food justice as:
“… Communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals. People practicing food justice leads to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment.”
It feels as if there’s a shift right now with people starting to deal with this global problem of food and hunger. People are taking food justice on as their life’s work, offering their communities healthy alternatives and supporting sustainable agriculture.
I’m fascinated by purpose-driven people who are working to make a difference in the world. This post showcases the responses from a diverse group of people in a variety of locations and life phases about their food justice work.
Many women I connect with speak to their desire to make a positive impact in the world, and feel guilty that they’re not doing enough to be part of the solution to the problems of our time. The truth is that there’s a time for everything, and it’s not possible to address all your desires in your current season of life.
This post is my way of inspiring you about food justice. Perhaps there will be a time in the future when you can become involved in the food justice issues of your own community. For now, I believe it’s enough to become educated and connected to the issue to the vision of a better world that we all want for our children, family, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren.
Enjoy these inspiring responses!
Why are you working on the issue of food justice, and what is your vision for a new food future?
“I knew that with my training as a chef and time spent studying sociology that I could impact the lives of many people living in poverty with little access to healthy food and lacked the education to support themselves through food. I didn’t say I wanted to “go into” food justice. I found an issue within my career, and went after the root cause (lack of education on cooking among low-income families on a SNAP budget).
Food inequality is growing rapidly due to global warming. It’s my vision that we recognize and focus our work with this in mind. We need to think globally. What work can be done today, and in the future, to establish systems that decrease global hunger?
My vision is that more organizations will work using collective impact, a model of bringing stakeholders together across multiple sectors to conquer social issues, to address hunger in their neighborhoods. From hunger comes eye-opening opportunities for collaboration.”
—Chef Alli Sosna, MicroGreens
“Food justice is really threefold: waste, hunger, and climate change. We waste almost half of all food while one in six people in the U.S. are food insecure and the waste severely damages our environment (14% of all human made emissions are due to food that’s never eaten). My vision on the topic of food waste, and in particular ugly produce, would be where a minimal amount produce is wasted anywhere along the supply chain (nowhere near the 26% before the store and over 40% in total that happens now). Farmers would be able to sell most of their produce grown and donate a good amount as well.
If we were to sell all produce grown, more folks would eat produce (combating hunger and malnutrition whereby 87% of Americans are not eating enough fruits and veggies). And lastly, and perhaps mostly importantly, we would not waste food and follow a Food Waste Hierarchy. By preventing food waste first, we could feed those in need so that no one goes hungry (because we waste enough good food in the U.S. to feed the hungry many, many times over).”
—Jordan Figueiredo, End Food Waste and Ugly Fruit and Veg
“I work on food justice issues as they relate to kids, with a specific focus on school food reform. Thirty-one million kids eat school meals every day—most due to economic need —so I’m fighting hard to make those meals as nutritious as possible. My vision of a new food future is a generation of young adults that never saw junk food at school, and who learned what healthy meals look like by seeing them every day in their school cafeteria.”
—Bettina Elias Siegel, The Lunch Tray
“I grew up in Israel as a hungry Jewish child. I promised myself that when I got older, I would do something to make sure there is no such thing as hunger amongst Jewish children and families. The Jewish people have to work together to ensure that every Jewish child wherever he or she may be has proper food. And it should be distributed in such a way that preserves people’s dignity so they can be whoever they are supposed to be in this world. Even though Yad Ezra V’Shulamit distributes 3,000 food baskets a month and feeds 500 children daily, we still have waiting lists of children and families that need help. We all have to chip in to make sure everyone has proper nutrition.
I see a world where no one goes hungry. The Jewish people have the resources we need amongst ourselves. People have to understand the situation and most importantly, they have to put themselves in the position of less fortunate families and really feel and care for their plight. Together, when the Jewish people stand as one, we can do anything.”
—Rav Aryeh Lurie, Yad Ezra V’Shulamit
“When we think about food justice at MovingWorlds, we think about two critical factors: access and awareness. All people should be able to access sanitary and healthy food, and all should be aware of the health and environmental implications of their food choices. Food injustice issues are as prevalent in inner-city environments as they are in rural communities in poverty, though they look very different. Food justice is exacerbated by the concerns of being able to feed our population as it swells to 9 billion people.
Our vision for the future is to improve education, corporate, entrepreneurial, nonprofit, and governmental initiatives to focus on education about healthy food choices, and systems-level solutions to ensure access for all.”
—Mark Horoszowski, MovingWorlds
“There are many things that we should fix in our world, but not many that we can impact or change as individuals. But there’s one thing, one action that we do at least three times a day that can make a real change, to change not only our lives but the whole world. And that is eating.
Our food, our plate has the most significant impact on the world we live in and by simple decisions that we make every breakfast, lunch, or dinner we can save lives of humans and other animals, we can save children from hunger, we can rescue our planet, and we can have much better health. This is the reason why I keep delivering this important message wherever I can. I truly believe that justice for all—mankind, animals, and earth—starts in our plates and we can contribute to justice simply by using our forks and knifes.
My future vision is that people will know a plant-based diet is the best way to save our planet and all living beings on it. It will be so simple to change your habits for the good and to reach out your hand to the less harmful products that will be healthier, cheaper, and tasty, so no one will want anything else.”
—Ori Shavit, Vegans on Top
“My work in food justice has been evolving over the past decade. My first ‘real job’ in food justice was when I began teaching cooking classes at a local community center in Southern Maine. I heard from students how they had no cooking equipment and no working stove, and the nearest fully stocked grocery store was too far of a walk. I also learned about the significant lack of “food literacy” in our culture, especially among the youngest generations.
In 2010, my ‘cooking class’ program became part of Good Shepherd Food Bank, where it remains today as Cooking Matters. I am incredibly proud that we have taught over 5,000 low-income Mainers how to cook since that time. Once inside the world of food banking, my eyes opened up to even more challenges facing people in need and their struggle to keep their families healthy. I’ve also learned about the paradox of our food system that produces so much excess food and yet leaves many of the people who produce the food hungry and in the food pantry lines. I’ve seen people from the agricultural Aroostook County ask if they can trade in their canned goods for fresh vegetables brought by our Food Mobile. And I’ve heard of too many people who are moved to tears when our staff arrives with fresh, healthy food to distribute to their communities.
I sometimes feel as if working to improve our food system wasn’t as much a conscious decision as it was an imperative, like seeing an accident and feeling compelled to pull over and help. This work is also vital because, to me, it is the starting point of so many other issues. How can we talk about improving education outcomes, allowing our seniors to age with dignity, or insuring people are healthy so they can continue to support themselves and their family if we first don’t make sure those who are struggling are fed?
My vision for a new food future is one where we have vibrant local, regional and national food systems that: allow everyone access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods in socially acceptable ways, support a sustainable and healthy environment, provide safe jobs with living wages, and create a level playing field among food producers that allows for local, regional, and national producers to have viable businesses. I’m excited to see what the future holds and to be a very small part of the movement.”
—Kristen Miale, Good Shepard Food Bank
If you could do anything to make an impact in the world, what project would you choose?
Share your dreams with me in the comments.