What is food justice?
“Food Justice views hunger as a result of unjust social dynamics including racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. Food justice advocates for policies which rebalance food systems in terms of social inequalities, such as government support for farmers of color, marginalized communities of color with poor food access, and exploited workers.” – The Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation
In other words….food justice addresses the inequality between who gets to eat a variety of healthier and culturally-competent food options and who does not.
What does food justice have to do with health and wellness?
Here at Student Wellness, we like to think of wellness in terms of dimensions. Wellness is not just about being physically healthy and free of sickness or disease; it also means nurturing all the dimensions of wellness, including social, emotional, cultural, intellectual, spiritual, financial, physical, and environmental. Food justice relates to wellness in a number of these dimensions.
Food justice and environmental wellness
Food justice is related to the environment in many ways. Access to food options may be limited due to the location of people’s homes or means of transportation. There may be an absence of fresh food or there could be a limited choice of affordable food items. People’s social environments may stigmatize people who are hungry, which is another aspect of food justice.
Food justice and financial wellness
Food injustice perpetuates the unequal class structure in the United States. Without educating ourselves, we could unintentionally support stigmas and misconceptions around poverty and hunger. One common misconception is that only the poorest of poor people are hungry, but we want everyone to know that hunger can exist outside of poverty.
Food justice and social wellness
By reducing the stigma associated with poverty and hunger, we can create a safer space for people to access free or low cost food without harassment, judgment, or condescension. We can do this by normalizing the usage of places like food pantries or food justice community gardens.
We should avoid falling into the trap of “I’m helping you. I’m serving you. (I’m better than you),” also known as the “savior complex.” We can avoid this by transforming traditional “community service” or “volunteering” opportunities into those that create a social culture where ALL people work together to support each other.
By working together we can strengthen interpersonal relationships. This is the groundwork for community empowerment.
What does food justice have to do with UNC?
Student Wellness and other campus and community partners are very proud to support a wonderful student initiative! Starting October 3, 2014, we will welcome UNC’s very first on-campus food pantry: The Carolina Cupboard. This pantry will be located in the Avery Residence Hall Basement, Room #BC and will be open to UNC students. Stay tuned for more information on how you can qualify!
By bringing a pantry to campus we are increasing access to food and promoting food justice. We hope you will work with us, the Residence Hall Association, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement, and other advisory board representatives to join this group of motivated and passionate undergraduate students to reduce stigma!
What does it have to do with us (students)?
This is a unique opportunity at Carolina for all of us to educate ourselves about the issues affecting our Tar Heel community. It’s up to ALL of us to make sure we all feel safe, supported, and included on this campus. Soon, the campus will be flooded with donation bins in various locations. Once the donation bins are up and running, we encourage you to fill them up!
Here’s what you can do NOW: ‘Like’ the Tar Heel Wellness Challenge Facebook page. For the next 14 days, we have a social media challenge about “Environmental Wellness,” one of the dimensions we talked about above. Comment on this blog post below or write a post on the Facebook page with #THWC. You can write about food justice, environmental wellness, or another relevant topic that is important to you. By participating in an activity (such as a writing exercise) related to environmental wellness, you get entered into a raffle to win $20.00 to the UNC Student Stores!
Stay tuned for more information, including the Carolina Cupboard’s new website! In the meantime, participate in the #THWC challenge and mark your calendars from September 29 through October 3 for a UNC Food Pantry kick-off week!