In one of the richest countries in the world, millions of our neighbors live in households that experience food insecurity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” Our current food systems contribute to food injustices and climate change.
Many of the practices embedded in the U.S. food system harm the environment, exploit farm workers, and too often prioritizes unhealthy food production. To build a better, sustainable food system, we must address systemic racism. According to the USDA, in 2021, nearly 20% of Black individuals lived in a food insecure household. In addition, Black people are almost three times as likely to face hunger than their white counterparts.
We know that Black people contributed enormously to building this country’s food systems—as enslaved people and later as sharecroppers and farmers—we have historically been excluded from healthy food options. Many Black communities do not have access to healthy food and are located in food deserts, areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The lack of affordable and nutritious food negatively impacts the health of our neighbors and communities.
A food justice lens examines access to healthy, culturally appropriate food, as well as: ownership and control of land, credit; the constituent labor of food production; and much more. We must recognize these realities while working to change our food systems because there is no food justice without racial justice.
Our faith traditions call us to care for our neighbors and respond with practical solutions. Many places of worship in Virginia are leading the way in applying creative ideas to care for Creation; whether it’s through a small community garden, through switching to fair trade coffee, or by saying no to Styrofoam products for their coffee hours, they all are making a difference.
VAIPL and our partner Chesapeake Bay Foundation are supporting congregations in Richmond and Petersburg to install vegetable gardens, rain gardens, and more to address some of the food injustices. We will let you know as these projects progress. We featured food-conscious communities and congregations across the Commonwealth in 2019; check them out here: vaipl.org/rethinkfood/