By URBAN LEADERS ACADEMY GIRLS FOR GENDER EQUITY

Food justice is at work as this farmers' market brings fresh fruits and vegetables to New York City. PHOTO: blese/Flickr
Food justice is at work as this farmers’ market brings fresh fruits and vegetables to New York City. PHOTO: blese/Flickr

Food security means that a family can find and afford nutritious food in their neighborhood. In 2013, 14 percent of households in the United States were food insecure. Children who grow up in food insecure homes are at a greater risk of developing health problems such as asthma, according to a non-profit called Feeding America. In areas that have few grocery stores, the only options around may be fast food and convenience stores that only sell high-fat, high-sugar snacks. The food justice movement seeks to make sure everyone has access to healthy food and knows what goes into making a nutritious meal.

Reducing food deserts is one way to tackle food insecurity. Having access to healthy foods can sometimes be a challenge because some people do not have the resources or access to local markets to get their food. Around 23.5 million people in the United States live in a food desert, according to dosomething.org.

The map on the top left shows which states have the least and most food security. PHOTO: GDS Infographics/Flickr
The map on the top left shows which states have the least and most food security. PHOTO: GDS Infographics/Flickr

One way to make healthy food available to everyone is by starting local gardens and bringing locally grown foods to people. Farmigo drop-off sites allow people to order food online from local farmers who then drop off fresh fruits, vegetables and meats at a drop-off location. “If I don’t support the farmers, then having fresh foods won’t be an option,” food justice teacher Rachel Hodge told IndyKids. “If I don’t buy fresh fruits and vegetables, all I am going to find is processed food. Food justice to me is making a dedicated effort to eat better, promote and support those that provide us with healthy foods, and making sure that our way of life is sustainable.”

There isn’t one solution to the problem, but students with Girls for Gender Equity’s afterschool program at Roy H. Mann Jr. High School in Mill Basin, Brooklyn are learning one approach in their food justice cooking class. Eighth-grader Miracle Jackson said, “Our cooking class makes healthy dishes and substitutes unhealthy foods for healthier foods. Instead of processed oils we substitute it with coconut oil. One day we made cauliflower buffalo sauce with a ranch side which was a substitute for buffalo wings and ranch sauce.” By learning about locally grown food and how to prepare healthy dishes, the students of GGE hope to teach better eating options and habits to their friends and family.

Food insecurity: When people do not have access to enough healthy food for all members of the household. Food insecure households are not necessarily lacking nutritious food all the time, but access to healthy foods may be limited or uncertain

Food justice: The idea that communities have the right to affordable, fresh, adequately nutritious foods

Food deserts: Regions, neighborhoods, or parts of the country that lack affordable, healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables and nutritious whole foods. Food deserts occur in impoverished areas and disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color