Monday, March 21, 2005

Food and environmental justice

Environmental Justice (EJ) is the right of every community to a healthful quality of life. If you look at the disparities between poor/minority communities and monied/white communities when it comes to obesity incidence and access to fresh/nutritional foods, it is clear the food is an EJ issue. There has been a lot of excellent writing in the past weeks on various food-related pieces of the very vast EJ puzzle.

Even before a study came out this past week suggesting that obesity could shave 2-5 years off of the average American lifespan, US Food Policy was cooking up a storm on the obesity issue. He's been looking at the marketing of processed foods to children, the lack of nutritional food options in schools, and the inadequacy of public health preventions or insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, life @ thirty pointed us in the direction of an article that describes redlining practices that create food insecure communities. Many neighborhoods are devoid of supermarkets, and others have a miniscule selection of the produce that was not up to par for supermarkets in wealthier areas.

She also has written about the pitfalls of industrial organic. Formed in response to high profit margins, big organic ag tends to have a lack of concern for affordability -- not exactly a future with an organic carrot on every dinner plate. Patronizing the organic label without concern for whether it's coming from a sustainable local farms (most of the produce in the Northeast is from California or beyond) also has EJ consequences. It means fewer farmers' markets in food insecure neighborhoods and fewer donations of fresh produce to local food pantries. The dented boxes of fruit rollups and expired Cheetos bags that are often donated en masse to soup kitchens are not exactly... well you get the idea. But great ideas are being put into motion, the folks at Elijah's Promise more-than-a-soup-kitchen in New Brunswick, NJ get it and I'd surmise they're not the only ones.

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