On Chicago’s South Side, members of the Healthy Food Hub pool their resources to buy organic food at wholesale prices. In New York, LA, and Chicago, the Food Chain Workers Alliance organizes the people who plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food to build an affordable food system that respects worker’s rights. The Healthy Food Hub and the Food Chain Workers Alliance are two examples of a new wave of food activism; a movement for just and culturally-relevant food practices, driven by communities of color.
New food activism will be the topic of conversation for the upcoming Social Soup lecture on Monday, Oct. 17 at the A. Ray Olpin Union in the East Union Ballroom. Dr. Julie Guthman will describe this new food activism in relationship to the existing alternative food movement in her lecture titled Beyond Market Based Alternatives: Towards the New Food Activism.
Guthman, Professor of Social Sciences in the Community Studies Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has long studied the alternative food movement – organic farming, local food systems, and sustainable agriculture. She is now one of several scholars who critique this movement for “ignoring that alternative food may not resonate with people of color.”
For example, Guthman questions the alternative food movement’s focus on “neoliberal approaches, like encouraging entrepreneurial ventures or focusing on consumer choice in the market.” She suggests that focusing on these approaches doesn’t solve the bigger inequities in the food system, which include global food insecurity, violations of food-workers’ rights, and food deserts.
She also explains that this focus can exclude poor communities and communities of color, commenting that the alternative food movement has “a tendency to be color blind, therefore white.”
Through a study of her own students, Guthman noticed a trend. Her students were gravitating towards the creation of community gardens, produce-delivery services, and pop-up farmer’s markets for communities outside their own cultural backgrounds. Guthman argues that these projects may not address the needs of the community, noting that many of these communities would rather see a supermarket than a community garden. She suggests that food activism needs to be more attentive to cultural politics. For Guthman, the new food activism movement presents an alternative approach to food justice issues that is more collective and inclusive.
To learn more about new food activism, join us for the bi-yearly Social Soup Lecture Series. This is a unique opportunity to hear from Julie Guthman, a nationally-renowned scholar, and to reflect on social, economic, and environmental issues surrounding food. The free event will be held over a bowl of vegetarian soup.
Date: Monday, Oct. 17, 2016
Time: 12–1:30 p.m.
Location: East Union Ballroom in the A. Ray Olpin Union
Bianca Greeff, graduate assistant in Environmental Humanities, working toward the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability