Food: A matter of Justice

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The Food Justice in Focus film festival is October 16-17.
The Food Justice in Focus film festival is October 16-17.

Two major things have happened in my life in the past 18 months. First, I started working at Columbia Legal Services. Second, I started (and stopped and started and stopped again) eating a high raw, vegan diet. Between these two very significant events in my life, I have come to understand food and justice – and how they overlap – in the most profound ways.

Prior to working at Columbia Legal Services, a statewide civil legal aid organization, Food Justice meant one thing: that everyone could afford the food they needed. One of my fundamental core values is choice. I believe that everyone should be able to choose the life they want to live, the person they want to live it with and, of course, what they want to eat. That’s it. That’s all.

However, my perspective has shifted after witnessing firsthand how our attorneys and allies have to fight to protect the most basic rights of farm workers. Rights that can’t be taken for granted.  Take our case with Sakuma Brothers Farm where we “won” the right for farm workers to get paid for their rest breaks.

Another victory was defending the right for farmworkers to stand up for better working conditions without the fear of retaliation. Oh, here is another huge coup for us to celebrate: farm workers can now have visitors in their own homes. Yes, just like you and me, after a hard day’s work, you can actually have friends over to your home to relax, commune, and connect which is a basic human need.

Now, let’s talk about this vegan thing.

In my own health journey, the first thing I realized as I considered this transition to a healthier lifestyle is that it costs A LOT more to eat healthier than to partake in the standard American diet. (S.A.D.) No judgment, just an acronym.

The S.A.D. diet is cheaper, quicker, and requires less focus on things like the quality of the food you are eating, the treatment of the workers who picked and prepared the food, the treatment of the animals, the impact on the environment, and the list goes on.

The truth is that when people are impoverished and working to survive, it is less likely that the above issues will be taken into consideration. Growing up poor, I can tell you we didn’t think about the hands that made the food, or the quality of it. We just wanted the most food we could get at the cheapest price. Unfortunately this means processing—lots and lots of processing with fillers and unimaginable chemicals. We haven’t even touched on the health implications that come from eating these kinds of foods which have resulted in epidemic obesity, diabetes, and cancer rates.

So, now what? Here is what we know: Food is essential to life. I mean, everyone has to eat, right? Right!

Just like education, justice, and economics, the food system is really another system that should be examined through the lens of access, racial equity, and justice. It’s time that we ask some tough questions about what we really value as a nation. How do we value the people who pick our food, or the animals that we eat, or our right to live free from sickness and disease (due to a lack of access to healthier foods) regardless of our income? It’s more than choice. This is a matter of justice. Food Justice.

Join us for films that tackle these tough questions and a lively conversation with inspiring local and national voices from the Food Justice movement on Friday, October 16th, 2015. Followed by a day of food justice films, art and exhibits.


Food Justice in Focus

October 16-17, 2015 at University Christian Church


Film+Panel Discussion: 6-9 pm

Join us for a community discussion and screening of FOOD CHAIN$, a documentary about the human costs of our food supply. Immediately following the screening will be an engaging panel discussion led by FOOD CHAIN$ director Sanjay Rawal, featuring local and national advocates and community organizers tackling pressing issues related to fair production and access to healthy food for all. Cost: $10. For more information:


Film Festival: 12:30-9 pm

Join the Social Justice Film Festival for a day of food-justice exhibits, art, and contemporary films where food intersects with today’s biggest environmental, labor, poverty and health issues. For more information:

Click here to purchase your tickets:

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