5 Organizations Dedicated to Addressing Food Equity
May 24, 2016 | Abbie Stutzer
Food equity is emerging as one of the most important social justice issues influencing the modern food system. It’s jarring that people throughout the United States are still unable to easily access healthy local produce when processed chips and soda can be bought at every corner store.
So Seedstock wanted to take the opportunity to recognize five organizations that are doing everything possible to get healthy, local produce in the hands of everyone who wants to eat well—no matter their location in a city.
1. Massachusetts Avenue Project & Growing Green
The Massachusetts Avenue Project & Growing Green’s (MAP) beginnings date all the way back to 1992. Although the Buffalo, New York organization’s start was modest—it was first classified as a “block club”—it is now a thriving nonprofit dedicated to growing food that nourishes while beautifying and bringing the neighborhood it resides in together. Although the organization has evolved over the years, it still aims to build food equity, while also engaging young people.
“MAP employs 50 teenagers and grows over 80 varieties of vegetables on 14 city lots,” Danielle Rovillo, market director of MAP, said in a FoodTank interview. “MAP also maintains the first aquaponics system in Buffalo and raises tilapia, a couple of really cool koi, and other aquaculture.”
While one of the organization’s main goals is recruiting youth and teaching them about agriculture—specifically urban farming, aquaponics, healthy eating, and food access—it also runs an urban farm on the city’s West Side.
2. Food Forward
Have you ever wanted to rescue local produce that you just saw rotting on the vine—or uneaten produce on an uninterested diner’s plate? If so, Food Forward gets how you feel.
This North Hollywood, California organization is dedicated to taking fresh produce that is destined to a death in a landfill, and distributes it to people so it can get a second life.
The volunteer-based nonprofit is run by individuals who visit private properties, public spaces, and wholesale and farmers’ markets to see what food can be repurposed. According to the organization’s website, every month its “diverse distribution partners provide food to over 100,000 clients a month across Southern California.”
Through its two branches—one in Ventura county, the other in Los Angeles county—Food Forward also runs other programs, such as backyard harvesting, and leads classes for people who want to learn how to salvage food.
3. Berkeley Food Institute
While many of the organizations on this list deal with food equity by getting dirt under their figurative fingernails, the Berkeley Food Institute gets its hands dirty in another way: through changing policy.
The Berkeley Food Institute tries to address food equity problems by changing the system. According to the organization’s website, the Institute aims to create “productive connections between members of the scholarly community, farmers and other producers, non-governmental organizations, governments, and civil society.” The organization enacts this change through interdisciplinary research and collaborative civic and community engagement.
The organization also strengthens its equity work with internal initiatives, student recruitment, and publications.
4. Community Food & Justice Coalition
Do you think that eating healthy food is a basic human right? If so, then you and this organization have a heck of a lot in common.
The Community Food organization takes a holistic approach to systematically create a food system that’s equal, while also being environmentally and economically sustainable—and it’s not as difficult as you may think. The organization was started in 2003 when its Oakland, California Coalition’s founders saw food as a tool that can help create an equitable society.
According to the organization’s website, CFJC started as one of the many programs that was part of the Community Food Security Coalition, a nationwide organization that brings together food security institutions across the U.S. Then, in 2008, the “CFJC became an independent project, and is now fiscally sponsored by the Public Health Institute.” And in October 2012, the organization changed its name from the California Food and Justice Coalition to the Community Food and Justice Coalition to better reflect the work it does on behalf of its “partners in communities across the country.”
This Portland, Maine organization has grown since the early ‘00s to increase access to good, clean food by empowering locals to help create a community-wide, sustainable food system while also modeling, teaching, and advocating for ecological food production.
Since the organization’s inception–around 2002–it has empowered “food growers” through garden-based education. Through its educational system, it teaches more than 450 students every year in Portland Public Schools about nutrition and agricultural skill development.
In 2004, the organization built a year-round leadership development program for teens. Teen involved in this program learn how to grow, cook and distribute food while practicing important job skills and community engagement.
Then, in 2009, the organization began the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project, which is now considered the largest land-based farmer training program in Maine. The program helps support former refugees and other immigrants.
And finally, in 2013, with the help of the City of Portland, Cultivating Community started to manage, support, and expand the community gardens program. According to the organization’s site, it established and manages “community growing spaces at Tidewater Farm (Falmouth), the Farm on Highland Avenue (South Portland), and at our Boyd Street Urban Farm (Portland).”
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the organizations out there fighting daily for food equity and access. Please feel free to tell us in the comments section below about your organization, or an organization that you know of that is tackling food equity.