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There is No Environmental Sustainability Without Food Justice

There is No Environmental Sustainability Without Food Justice

A conversation around food is incomplete without mention of the drastic difference in accessibility to food, specifically healthy, sustainably grown, and culturally appropriate foods. In previous blog posts, we explored the externalization of social and environmental factors in the economic model of our food and how this causes our food to be erroneously priced too low. We can see in our daily lives these unhealthy and industrialized foods being marketed and advertised to us about their convenience. These products will be conveyed as “cost-savings” and “low-priced”. This messaging communicates to us that these options will help us in some way, when in reality the expense to black and brown bodies and to our environment are inherent in those products, but never communicated to the consumer.

Our current food system was designed by a racist, patriarchal, and capitalist society and it is these design flaws that have resulted in a food system in which healthy, nutritious food is not available to everyone, specifically communities that are predominantly Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). Industrialized, unhealthy foods are the only options available through food stamps and food bank programs in these communities and in most cases, the only accessible food. This discriminatory system prevents BIPOC groups from owning land, getting farm loans, and essentially prevents them from having any say or involvement in the food growing process. In many cases, food movements that have attempted to address our failing food system have generally perpetuated this issue by creating solutions that serve wealthier communities while leaving behind communities of color of whom are the most harmed by the current pitfalls of the food system. Food is convoluted in the ways it impacts so many facets of our lives, and understanding this can promote a motivation to use food to alleviate these problems instead of perpetuating them.

Photo Credit: Meredith Stern

What is Food Justice?

“Food justice is a holistic and structural view of the food system that sees healthy food as a human right and addresses structural barriers to that right.” - FoodPrint

Food justice fights to empower all humans to have the freedom and ability to access food. This has deep roots in land ownership and it’s interesting to consider the stakeholders that were involved in decision-making when industrial agriculture was created. Who was the system built for and who does it leave out? Two of the greatest barriers to food for all humans are cost and access. Food justice movements work to break down these barriers and the structures in place that created those barriers in the first place. It works to lift up voices that have historically been oppressed and give them the space to lead and create a new food system.

Food Insecurity in Canada

An eye-opening study conducted at the University of Toronto looked at household food insecurity in Canada in 2017-2018. They define household food insecurity as “the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints.” The researchers found that “12.7% of households in the country experienced some level of food insecurity in the previous 12 months.” This percentage comes out to “1.8 million households, or 4.4 million individuals, including over 1.2 million children under the age of 18.” When compared to 2015 levels of food insecurity, they found that every province increased in the percentage of households that were food insecure except for Quebec, where the percentage decreased slightly. The researchers found that rates of food insecurity were most common in households with “low-incomes, lone-parent families, those who rent rather than own their housing, and those who identify as Indigenous or Black.”

These results indicate that not only is food insecurity a severe and pressing issue in Canada, but additionally, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities suffer from higher rates across the nation. These levels of food insecurity not only cause developmental problems in children and chronic illnesses for everyone affected but additionally cost the nation’s healthcare system more money than if these people would have access to a sufficient diet. In the graphic above, the study broke up the levels of food insecurity by racial/cultural identity. We see that populations of color are more impacted by food insecurity.

Environmental sustainability and food justice go hand and hand and combining these missions to build one another up is a necessary step in the fight for equality. Read on to learn more about ways you can get involved in the fight.

5 Groups Fighting for Food Justice

Sundance Harvest

Sundance Harvest is a year-round urban farm in Toronto, Ontario that's rooted in food justice. Sundance Harvest grows a variety of produce, offers a Farm School, and runs a free educational program called Growing in the Margins for low-income youth who are a part of marginalized groups (BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, and youth with disabilities). Cheyenne Sundance is the owner and manager of Sundance Harvest and is one of the city’s biggest advocates for food justice.

Food Share

Food Share works in Toronto, Ontario, and throughout Canada to find long-term solutions to create a food system where everyone has access to affordable and nutritious food. They support and learn from those most affected by poverty and food insecurity - Black, Indigenous, People of Color, People with Disabilities. 

Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFed)

CoFed is a student-led organization that promotes food justice by empowering young people of color. They create partnerships with food and land co-ops in the US and Canada. Since 2011, CoFed has trained more than 600 leaders to fight for food justice and create a more equitable system.


SeedChange is a non-profit organization that collaborates with farmers around the world to aid them in their process of growing food and connecting with other farmers. They support small-scale farmers in starting their businesses, restoring degraded land, and sharing seeds.

Soul Fire Farm

Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC- centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. This group provides food to help end the food apartheid and creates programs that foster learning and disrupt the school to prison pipeline that is a reality in so many of these communities. They foster reconnection to the land and unite diverse groups together through farming. 

What Is Food Justice and Why Is It Necessary? (2020, August 11). FoodPrint. https://foodprint.org/issues/food-justice/
Tarasuk V, Mitchell A. (2020) Household food insecurity in Canada, 2017-18. Toronto: Research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity (PROOF).