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Growing Food Justice by Planting an Anti-oppression Foundation: Opportunities and Obstacles for a Budding Social Movement



The food justice movement is a budding social movement premised on ideologies that critique the structural oppression responsible for many injustices throughout the agrifood system. Tensions often arise however when a radical ideology in various versions from multiple previous movements is woven into mobilization efforts by organizations seeking to build the activist base needed to transform the agrifood system. I provide a detailed case study of the People’s Grocery, a food justice organization in West Oakland, California, to show how anti-oppression ideology provides the foundation upon which food justice activists mobilize. People’s Grocery builds off of previous social justice movements within West Oakland, reflected in activist meaning making around ideas of social justice and autonomy. However, the ongoing mobilization process also faces complications stemming from diverse individual interpretations of food justice—that may not be reflected in the stated goals of food justice organizations—as well as structural constraints. Consequently, building a social movement premised on food justice opens up social spaces for new activism, but may not be a panacea for solving food-related racial and economic inequality. The findings have implications for newly forming food justice organizations, future research on the food justice movement, as well as for theories on social movement mobilization.
Growing food justice by planting an anti-oppression foundation:
opportunities and obstacles for a budding social movement
Joshua Sbicca
Accepted: 27 February 2012
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract The food justice movement is a budding social
movement premised on ideologies that critique the struc-
tural oppression responsible for many injustices throughout
the agrifood system. Tensions often arise however when a
radical ideology in various versions from multiple previous
movements is woven into mobilization efforts by organi-
zations seeking to build the activist base needed to trans-
form the agrifood system. I provide a detailed case study of
the People’s Grocery, a food justice organization in West
Oakland, California, to show how anti-oppression ideology
provides the foundation upon which food justice activists
mobilize. People’s Grocery builds off of previous social
justice movements within West Oakland, reflected in
activist meaning making around ideas of social justice and
autonomy. However, the ongoing mobilization process also
faces complications stemming from diverse individual
interpretations of food justice—that may not be reflected in
the stated goals of food justice organizations—as well
as structural constraints. Consequently, building a social
movement premised on food justice opens up social spaces
for new activism, but may not be a panacea for solving
food-related racial and economic inequality. The findings
have implications for newly forming food justice organi-
zations, future research on the food justice movement, as
well as for theories on social movement mobilization.
Keywords Food justice People’s Grocery
West Oakland, CA Ideology Framing
Environmental sociology
AFM Alternative food movement
BPP Black Panther Party
EJ Environmental justice
FJ Food justice
FJM Food justice movement
FJO Food justice organization
PG People’s Grocery
The alternative food movement (AFM) largely mobilizes
activists around localism and sustainability. White middle-
class activists dominate this movement and they focus on
reform strategies, which reflect an ecologically focused
ideology stemming from traditional environmentalism and
a dedication to local alternatives to globalized agrifood
systems (Alkon 2008; DuPuis and Goodman 2005). How-
ever, the AFM often fails to incorporate concerns about
racial and economic inequality in the agrifood system.
Charges of elitism have grown in light of influential
organizations such as Slow Food USA championing local
organic food despite its high costs, which often shut out
low-income consumers.
J. Sbicca (&)
Department of Sociology, Criminology and Law,
University of Florida, 3219 Turlington Hall,
P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Such privilege has been expressed by high profile celebrity foodies
making classist, verging on racist remarks. In a 60 min interview,
Alice Waters said, ‘‘We make decisions every day about what we’re
going to eatsome people want to buy Nike shoes—two pairs—and
other people want to eat Bronx grapes, and nourish themselves. I pay
a little extra, but this is what I want to do.’’ Such language reduces
food choices to zero-sum games that ignore complex racial and
economic systems.
Agric Hum Values
DOI 10.1007/s10460-012-9363-0
In contrast, food justice (FJ) incorporates concerns with
inequalities, and the food justice movement (FJM) is premised
on the ideological influences of social justice movements. The
FJM thus seeks a radical transformation of the agrifood system
from farm to table (Gottlieb and Joshi 2010). This commitment
sacrifices resonance with the AFM, which often relies on
rhetoric of individual consumer choice and a reformative,
policy-based agenda, and instead opts for a radical
tive. At the annual Slow Food USA conference in 2008, a panel
was held including FJ activists who debated the importance of
anti-racist activism in the context of white privilege in the
Yet, other FJ-specific conferences put on by the
Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative have held work-
shops on other inequalities faced by different groups. For
example, at the 2011 conference there were workshops titled
Women, Gardening and Healing and Queering the Farm:
Heteronormativity and Food Justice. FJ thus pursues a liber-
atory principle focusing on the right of historically disenfran-
chised communities to have healthy, culturally appropriate
food, which is also justly and sustainably grown.
The focus on food provides a basis for a radical critique
of many social and environmental inequalities, which is
one reason why the FJM has many different influences. The
very radicalism of FJ stems from the fact that food is
fundamental to life. The FJM’s critique of the current
organization of the agrifood system can therefore be
approached via the optics of various previous social
movements concerned with very specific inequalities. The
struggle of the FJM has thus been how to effectively bridge
diverse concerns into one social movement that fully
addresses the panoply of problems in the agrifood system.
Concerns central to anti-hunger, food security, labor,
sustainability, and social justice movements have spilled
over into the FJM, complicating the drivers and outcomes
of FJ activism. As a result, the concept of FJ is multifaceted
and is often employed by FJ activists with contrasting
understandings of the content of FJ itself. Gottlieb and
Joshi (2010) note that food justice ‘remains a relatively
unformed concept, subject to multiple interpretations’’
(p. 6). This in turn bears potential perils for discursive
expressions of FJ, the practices of FJ activists, and the
stated goals of FJ organizations (FJOs). But little research
has paid attention to the complications arising from the
socio-historical context of FJ that inform understandings of
FJ among activists as well as discourses of FJOs.
The most common discursive process activists engage in
is framing, which is the tactical deployment of frames to
mobilize activists to create social change. Frames are the
cognitive structures ‘‘that enable participants to locate,
perceive, and label occurrences, selectively punctuating
and encoding objects, situations, events, experiences, and
sequences of action within one’s present environment’’
(Snow et al. 1986, p. 464). Understanding the process of
framing is especially important in light of the insistence by
many scholars that social justice concerns be integrated
into efforts to remake the agrifood system (Allen 2008;
DuPuis and Goodman 2005; Gottlieb and Fisher 1996). But
as has been pointed out by others, social justice means
different things to different people within social move-
ments, thus complicating the ability for maintaining unity
in diversity (Harvey 1996).
This paper uses framing as an analytical tool to illumi-
nate the central dilemma concerning differences in how FJ
itself is framed by FJO activists. I take up the case of the
People’s Grocery (PG), an FJO in West Oakland, Califor-
nia. I use this case to show that in the course of FJ mobi-
lization efforts, there are a variety of worldviews that must
be negotiated among activists if the goals of FJ are to be
understood, let alone collectively actualized by an FJO.
The main goal of this paper is therefore to show that the
multiple understandings of FJ among activists may be
difficult to harness into a concerted course of action by an
FJO. To accomplish that main goal, this article pursues
three related objectives: (1) show how the history and
context of PG’s formation led to tensions over different
notions of FJ, (2) explicate specifically how an anti-
oppression ideology influences PG’s efforts to actualize FJ,
and (3) unearth the organizational challenges that arise
when adopting a radical vision that seeks to structurally
transform the agrifood system.
Historical formations and discursive mobilization
tactics of the food justice movement
Activist performances are bundled into repertoires of collective
action that draw on a long history of previous social movement
struggles (Tilly 2006). I therefore link the history within which
an FJO forms to understand the framing processes that FJ
activists use. In particular, I call attention to local history and
mobilization in order to understand the recent rise of FJ in the
case of West Oakland. While framing among FJ activists has
been discussed in general terms by a few scholars (Gottlieb and
Joshi 2010), less attention has been given to how a specific
region’s political, economic, and social history contextualize
the specific FJ frames used by FJ activists.
Throughout this article ‘‘radical’’ refers to changing social struc-
tures and value systems at their root. This is derived from the Latin
radix, or ‘‘root.’’ Given the fundamental importance of food to human
survival, and the social and ecological problems tied to food at this
historical movement, FJ seeks to get to the roots of these problems.
FJ concerns are now part of Slow Food USA’s organizational
mission. The AFM is also taking FJ more seriously, evidenced by the
annual conference put on by the Community Food Security Coalition:
Food Justice: Honoring Our Roots, Growing the Movement.
J. Sbicca
One way to understand historical processes tied to
activists adopting a frame is to highlight ‘‘social movement
spillover’’ (Meyer and Whittier 1994). As I will discuss
further below, in the case of West Oakland, FJ activists
inherited frames from previous social movements, includ-
ing the black power movement and environmental justice
movement. Spillover from multiple previous movements
contributes to variability in interpretations of FJ among FJ
activists. There are diverse ideological legacies left by
those movements. This has forced FJ activists to contend
with conflicts arising from the contrasting ideological
assumptions embedded in FJ frames.
The diverse influences on the FJM call for careful atten-
tion to the various discourses and ideologies at work among
FJ activists (Allen 2008). Many scholars recognize that
activists attach meaning to shared experiences, and through
interactive and signifying processes, activists develop cul-
turally relevant frames meant to convey grievances (Gam-
son et al. 1982; Benford and Snow 2000). However, frames
may at times organically develop through the dynamic
relationships between leaders, activists, and the broader
socio-historical context (Benford 1997). Importantly, these
often contested and emergent framing processes reflect an
organization or movement’s ideology and tactical predi-
lections (Oliver and Johnston 2000).
Therefore, framing
can be ‘‘formulated as a jointly constituted process, as dis-
course that conjoins the ideological and the strategic’
(Westby 2002, p. 291). In short, influences from other social
movements come to activists, who then interact with each
other in the context of movement organizations, where
contests ensue over what discourses to adopt to articulate the
goals of said organizations.
One key influence on the FJ discourse stems from the
environmental justice (EJ) discourse, which focuses on the
disproportionate exposure of economically and racially
marginalized people to environmental burdens (Alkon and
Agyeman 2011; Park and Pellow 2004). EJ may be used by
FJ activists as an overarching frame to emphasize the
disproportionate lack of access to healthy foods. But as
Gottlieb and Joshi (2010) contend, ‘‘the food justice
argument brings together an array of arguments about food
and environment, food and health, food and labor, food and
hunger, and how food is grown, produced, accessed,
and eaten, and situates them within a justice framework’
(p. 230). This carries FJ’s concerns beyond the EJ frame on
disproportionality and opens the possibility for a
more radical critique of capitalism, racism, and patriarchy
built around food as an environmental benefit, while
simultaneously proposing a set of alternatives that may
build economically viable and just agrifood systems. The
challenge for FJOs is thus to ensure that frames resonate
with the ideologies of movement participants (Benford and
Snow 2000). This is a crucial question given the often
divisive roles that race, class, and gender play within the
agrifood system as well as the AFM (Alkon and Norgaard
2009; Guthman 2008; Slocum 2006,2007).
The challenge of adopting a coherent FJ frame built on
diverse ideologies also bears implications for the articulation
and practice of tactical repertoires by FJOs. While some food-
based tactical repertoires revolve around social justice by
securing such rights and entitlements (Hassanein 2003), oth-
ers focus on developing local, autonomous economic strate-
gies based on communities’ cultural practices and collective
skills (Mares and Pen
˜a2011). However, ideologies that posit
strategic goals of social justice and autonomy may at times
conflict. Given that the FJM has multiple ideological influ-
ences and is a relatively young social movement, an FJO
provides a very insightful case study to better understand the
opportunities and perils of seeking a cohesive frame for FJ.
Methods and data
Given the paucity of studies on FJOs, I pursued a case study
approach for an in-depth investigation of People’s Grocery
in West Oakland. I adopted this approach after speaking with
PG’s executive director, who indicated that many people had
done research on PG, but had often produced knowledge of
little interest to the FJO itself. Given that PG had a relatively
new internship program, called an ‘‘Urban Ag and Food
Justice Allyship,’’ the director wanted to know more about
the experience of interns and volunteers. I therefore focused
my inquiry on a comparison of understandings of FJ among
the staff, who were much more experienced activists, and the
interns and volunteers, who were by and large newer
activists. At the same time, adoption of PG as a case study
allowed me to situate PG in the context of West Oakland’s
history. Specifically, I consider West Oakland’s social his-
tory in terms of inequalities as well as its social movements
(see Pellow 2000).
Three specific research methods drove the data collection
and analysis. First, I conducted content analysis of online
and printed information available from PG. I also included
newspaper articles and Internet blogs that either mentioned
or focused on PG. These archival sources were used to
reconstruct the history of PG and West Oakland. These
sources provided a historical point of reference to contex-
tualize data gathered through the other methods. For the
second method, I did participant observation with PG. For
three months in the summer of 2009, I worked 20 hours a
week as an intern at PG’s community gardens, three-acre
Oliver and Johnston (2000) define ideology as ‘‘a system of
meaning that couples assertions and theories about the nature of social
life with values and norms relevant to promoting or resisting social
change’’ (p. 43).
Growing food justice by planting an anti-oppression foundation
farm, and office. After each day interning, I wrote detailed
field notes. For the third and final method, I interviewed a
majority of PG staff members and interns. Specifically, I
conducted in-depth interviews with 7 staff members and 10
My interview questions elicited information on
understandings of FJ from each interviewee. This in turn
permits comparisons between interns, who were new FJ
activists, and the staff, who were more experienced. My
interview questions asked about four broad topics: (1) per-
ceptions of and involvement with PG, (2) experiences in
West Oakland, (3) understandings of FJ, and (4) perceptions
of and experiences in movement building. Along with the
archival work and participant observations, responses to
these questions provide rich descriptive detail to support my
framing analysis in historical context.
To analyze my interviews and field notes, I coded for
how activists understood PG and portrayed FJ. I looked for
differences among interviewees concerning understandings
of FJ, the goals of FJ, and how PG was contributing to such
goals. I coded themes in the local historical context of my
case, while relating those themes to larger theoretical
issues tied to framing and social movement mobilization.
Relevant theory from research on social movements,
especially the environmental justice and FJMs, influenced
the coding and interpretation of the data.
Following the lead of Stinchcombe (1978) and Burawoy
(1998), I pursued an iterative approach to the analysis. This
iterative process of going back and forth between theory and
data helps form the overarching narrative concerning FJ at
PG. I also used this iterative approach to permit an expli-
cation of ideologies deployed by staff and interns in artic-
ulating their understandings of FJ. In this manner, I sought to
unravel the different ideological frames at play in PG.
Inequality in West Oakland and the formation
of People’s Grocery
The history of West Oakland provides the context within
which I situate PG and its adoption of anti-oppression
ideologies as the foundation for its FJ framing. Both racial
and class inequalities have permeated the social fabric of
West Oakland for over a century. As a result, West
Oakland has for the same period also been a site for radical
political struggles.
A brief history of West Oakland
When the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed over 80 % of
San Francisco, thousands of people moved to Oakland, and
many workers settled in the industrial center of West
Oakland. World War I brought an inflow of military capital
to Oakland and new job opportunities in the shipyards.
Industry continued to expand through World War II.
McClintock (2008) notes the confluence between industry
and housing that city planners and developers used at this
time as an ‘‘‘industrial garden’: the dispersal of industry
away from the mixed-use downtown core but closely tied
to nearby, semi-autonomous residential neighborhoods’’
(p. 16). Throughout the 1930s, industry decentralized as
factories were built in East Oakland, which led to the
development of suburban housing, occupied by those who
could afford new single-family homes (Bagwell 1982).
This settlement process yielded racial segregation as
most residents in West Oakland were people of color while
most in East Oakland were whites. Throughout the 1950s
and 1960s, West Oakland became more industrialized and
ghettoized, while East Oakland received the capital nec-
essary to develop housing for upwardly mobile whites, thus
perpetuating the racialization of space (McClintock 2008;
powell 2009). In addition to redlining policies seen else-
where in the country as a key factor behind racial segre-
gation, private investment and infrastructure projects also
contributed to segregation in West Oakland (Johnson 1993;
Rhomberg 2004). With the construction of three freeways
(the 580, 980, and 880) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit
(BART) train lines, West Oakland was effectively encir-
cled, creating a space characterized by poor air quality.
Despite the infrastructure investments, West Oakland’s
land values declined in the 1970s and 1980s, which
resulted in the flight of many businesses and increased
urban blight. These processes fostered rifts between East
and West Oakland and resulted in a history of racial ten-
sions between people of color and whites.
While a deep political consciousness and activist spirit
were present within the black community since the late
it was not until the late 1960s that activists from
this community reached a national audience. The black
community responded to the failure of the liberal welfare
I received IRB approval for this research. Each participant signed
an informed consent form. Real names have been excluded to protect
identities. Interviews lasted 45 min to an hour. Interviews were
requested in person during the course of participant observation.
Interviewed interns were 80 % female, 40 % white, 30 % black,
20 % Asian, and 10 % Latino/a. Ninety percent were between the
ages of 18 and 26, and 70 % were in or graduates of college.
Interviewed staff were 57 % female, 43 % black, 29 % white, 14 %
Asian and 14 % Latino/a. Fourteen percent were between the ages of
18 and 26, 43 % were 27–34, 14 % were 35–42, 29 % were over 42,
and 86 % had graduated from college.
Similar analyses have been carried out investigating dissensus and
consensus of the food security frame, albeit across many organiza-
tions and federal agencies using this frame (Mooney and Hunt 2009).
West Oakland had headquarters for both the Brotherhood of
Sleeping Car Porters (first official black union in the USA) and
Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
J. Sbicca
state to lift blacks into working class positions by devel-
oping strategies for self-determination (Self 2005).
With the brutal police beating of a black man in Watts (Los
Angeles), the assassination of Malcolm X, and the sub-
sequent urban black rebellions taking place across the
United States, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton formed the
Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self Defense in Oakland.
While the BPP is often caricatured as an organization that
took a stand against white supremacy by wielding guns to
protect their community against police brutality, they were
largely concerned with developing social programs that
provided basic community needs (Self 2005). The first
program was the Free Breakfast for Children Program,
which gave black and poor children in West Oakland food
before they went to school. In a sense, West Oakland’s
struggle for FJ thus began with the BPP.
The other major struggle in West Oakland, especially
over the past 10–15 years, has been over environmental
inequality. The most prominent example involved the
struggle against Red Star Yeast, whose factory was the
largest toxic emitter and air polluter in West Oakland. Due
to political resistance via coalition building between local
community groups, elected officials and academics, Red
Star Yeast was shut down. However, there still exist major
disparities in environmental quality between West Oakland
and the rest of Oakland, evidenced by the concentration of
toxics in West Oakland (Fisher et al. 2006). Claims for EJ
where one lives, works, and plays have bled into the most
recent struggles for healthy and affordable food in this
community, turning fights against environmental bads into
fights for environmental goods.
The high level of poverty in West Oakland
is closely
related to the high level of food insecurity. The disincli-
nation of large grocery chains to locate in urban locales,
pejoratively known as ‘‘supermarket redlining,’’ has led to
the declining health of the urban poor (Eisenhauer 2001).
Compared to one small grocery store selling fresh produce
and healthy food, West Oakland has 53 liquor/convenience
stores and 13 fast food restaurants. Laurison and Young
(2009) found that while there are Trader Joe’s and Whole
Foods stores opening up in other parts of Oakland, West
Oakland has only 0.9 food stores per 1,00 residents com-
pared to 2 per 1,000 residents in 1950.
Consequently, the quality of food available in West
Oakland is low: most of the food is high in fat calories,
canned or otherwise highly processed, and contains many
additives and preservatives. Fresh produce is generally
wilted, yet overpriced. West Oakland is like many urban
communities whose lack of access to healthy food corre-
sponds to higher rates of nutrition-related diseases
(Freeman 2007; Galvez et al. 2007; Morland and Evenson
2009). Compared with the rest of Oakland, West Oakland
residents die at disproportionately higher rates of heart
disease and cancer (Alameda County Public Health
Department 2001). West Oakland had the highest rate of
diabetes in Alameda County with a diabetes hospitalization
rate three times higher than the county (Alameda County
Public Health Department 1998).
It is within this interconnected social, political, and eco-
nomic context that PG mobilized activists to fight for FJ.
West Oakland provides an historical context for interpreting
the rise of FJ activism as a response not only to unjust racial
and economic conditions perpetuated by the state. Griev-
ances by activists were tied to the failure of the welfare state,
the corrosive influence of corporate industry, and the per-
petuation of institutionalized racism. Moreover, there has
been social movement spillover (Meyer and Whittier 1994)
from racial justice and EJ movements into the FJM. Spe-
cifically, the influence of the BPP’s vision for emancipatory
politics ‘‘through which peopleworked to ‘bend the bars’
that kept them prisoners of poverty and inequality and to
create alternative spaces where the amelioration of hunger
and poverty could facilitate social reproduction’’ has had a
profound impact on the ideology grounding FJ efforts in
West Oakland (Heynen 2009, p. 419). This local expression
of the FJM is mutually constituted with other social justice
movements, albeit with tactical innovation and ideological
tweaking to include white allies. Thus, while FJ framing is
outside the dominant ecological/environmentalist discourse
of the broader AFM, it resonates within specific ‘‘discursive
opportunity structures’’ (Ferree 2003) constituted by a his-
tory of radical rhetoric and activism.
The rise of People’s Grocery
PG operates out of the second story of a three-unit house in
West Oakland.
One window has a poster with PG’s logo:
three kids, Latino, Asian, and black, are standing next to
each other in poses that include holding a basket of pro-
duce, holding gardening tools, and holding up fists with
and without food. The other window houses a colorful
hand-made sign exclaiming, ‘‘Be Healthy.’’ This pithy sign
reflects PG’s mission as a community-based organization
that ‘‘develops creative solutions to the health problems in
our community that stem from a lack of access to and
As of 2000, there were 23,141 residents in West Oakland. The
community is 65 % African American, 14.5 % Latino, 9.7 % Asian
or Pacific Islander, 6.3 % White, 3.6 % two or more races, and less
than 1 % American Indian (United Way of the Bay Area 2009). West
Oakland is the poorest neighborhood in the Bay Area: 19 %
unemployment, 39 % living in poverty, and 56.8 % of households
making less than $25,000 a year.
While still in West Oakland, PG has moved to a new office since
this study was completed. There have also been changes in staff,
including a new executive director.
Growing food justice by planting an anti-oppression foundation
knowledge about healthy, fresh foods. Our mission is to
build a local food system that improves the health and
economy of the West Oakland community’’ (People’s
Grocery 2009).
PG was founded in 2002 by Brahm Ahmadi, Malaika
Edwards, and Leander Sellers, two non-native Oaklanders
and one native Oaklander. Upon moving to West Oakland,
they witnessed an indicative symptom of the city’s history
of racial and class inequality: the lack of basic food
essentials. They reasoned that having access to healthy
food, and using food to improve the local economy, were
together fundamental to community empowerment and
development. This necessity was dubbed food justice. The
first expression of their efforts to increase healthy food was
the Collards & Commerce Youth Program, which
employed eight youths in urban gardening and nutrition
outreach. This program led to the development of the
Mobile Market, a grocery store on wheels, which provided
healthy and affordable food to West Oakland residents. The
Mobile Market helped to build PG’s reputation within the
community, and in only a year, they were serving ‘‘roughly
3,500 of the area’s 30,000 residents’’ (McMillan 2007).
PG now runs community gardens, a subsidized community
supported agriculture program called the Grub Box, and
training programs on nutritional education and leadership
As will become clear below, PG uses the problems
surrounding food as a tool to address structural oppression
and work towards racial and economic justice. This mis-
sion blends a commitment to challenging ideological and
cultural forms of oppression with creating new organiza-
tional alternatives to institutions that have marginalized
many poor communities of color. Moreover, PG works at a
local level to mobilize people to challenge racial and
economic inequality throughout the agrifood system
through both personal and collective actions. While PG’s
tactical repertoire is ideologically influenced by radical
social movements, they have also innovatively integrated
strategies to improve community health from the AFM.
Results: struggling for unity in diversity within food
justice efforts
Given this historical background for West Oakland and PG,
I now interpret findings from my archival work, participant
observation, and in-depth interviews. I focus on three key
themes: (1) ideological commitments and frames informing
understandings of FJ, specifically that of anti-oppression,
(2) organizational challenges to mobilizing around FJ, and
(3) the issue of representing local residents. The following
investigation of these themes highlights how different
value frames become integrated, often in conflicting ways,
into an FJO. An anti-oppression analysis of interlocking
inequalities leads to structural critiques, but the set of
solutions that follow may be difficult to employ.
Ideological commitment(s) to anti-oppression
in the work of People’s Grocery
The FJM is often framed as a multicultural movement built
on an anti-oppression ideology meant to address the
reproduction of racial inequalities in the agrifood system
and AFM. PG staffers believe the organization’s reputation
and success in the West Oakland community hinges on
their ability to address racial inequality. This is evidenced
by one of the black female staff members who reflected on
her ability to culturally connect to the community and find
ways to effectively spread FJ: ‘‘In a lot of black house-
holds, the final and major decisions are made around the
table where people normally come to eat. If you never saw
each other again at any point in your week, Sunday around
the table would be that time. Food has always played a
major role in our community.’’ Given the history of racial
inequality around private property, an Asian female staff
member expressed a desire to make sure that West Oak-
landers derive benefits from changes brought by FJ activ-
ism: ‘‘there’s always a fear of gentrificationwhere
original residents are slowly pushed out. But if you’re able
to provide jobsat the same time that you’re changing the
social landscape and the physical landscape, then they have
a better chance of being able to stay in the neighborhood.’’
To help build a broader AFM premised on a definition of
FJ that takes racial inequality seriously, PG created the first
agricultural ‘‘allyship’
program in the United States
requiring anti-oppression training. My observations at PG’s
anti-oppression training and investigation of online
resources on anti-oppression indicate that the ‘‘allyship’
stems from the belief that there is space in the FJM for
people with varying degrees and forms of privilege who are
passionate about creating just and sustainable agrifood
systems. The anti-oppression training is used to challenge
This program was ended in 2006.
For more details on how PG operates visit: http://www.peoples
PG’s website links to resources on anti-oppression training. One
resource provides a clear way to understand allyship by challenging
activists to ask ‘‘what (am I) doing right now, right here, to support
the self-determination of communities of color and of low-income
peopleto support a revolutionary transformation of systems of
powerIt makes me ask myself what (am I) doingto help root out
the racism in my own heart and the heart of communities I’m a part
of, so that I can struggle in true solidarity with communities most
affected by injustice as they lead the movement for radical social
change’’ (McClure 2006).
J. Sbicca
activists to link issues of power and privilege to personal
reflections on how they have come to PG, and how their
positionality intersects with the history of those in West
Oakland. Before such trainings, it is rare for activists to
have linked FJ and anti-oppression principles. In this way,
PG’s organizational structure and mobilization tactics send
the symbolic message that a complete cross-section of
society needs to be recruited if the FJM is to effectively
dismantle oppression from farm to table. This tactic takes
on a unique historical precedent in a community where the
BPP and EJ groups—which were ideologically committed
to racial and economic justice, freedom from oppression,
and autonomy from white supremacist institutions—
developed repertoires of collective action specifically
designed to empower marginalized blacks. Thus, FJ prac-
tices such as anti-oppression trainings are informed by
previous ideologies and discourses, which then inform new
discursive trajectories for PG.
PG illustrates its multifaceted commitment to anti-
oppression at its trainings, which are run by staff most
closely representing the racial makeup of West Oakland.
However, in the spirit of inclusivity, one white male con-
tributed to the training by running a role playing exercise
meant to explore how privilege may play itself out when
working with West Oaklanders. Handouts are distributed
that describe what is being challenged: ‘‘Oppression is the
power and the effects of domination. In the United States,
there are many forms of (often) interlocking systems of
oppression: white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, pa-
triarchy, heterosexism and the violence of the state, age-
ism, ableism, anti-Semitism, etc.’’ A Latino male intern,
recognizing the interconnectivity of oppressive systems
and the need for an analysis that represents this complexity,
To really develop an analysis that links everything
up, that’s saying you don’t necessarily have to fight
this, but be an ally and support it and know about it.
Because food justice is related to the prison system,
everything is related to each other: the economy,
racism, classism. It all intersects. So, yes, everyone is
going to have to be fighting at different levels to get
the shit done that needs to be done.
As part of the ‘‘allyship,’’ interns participated in film
screenings and discussions focusing on the relationships
between power and privilege. Such events were conducted
as a way to reinforce the diagnostic, prognostic, and
motivational FJ framing grounded in anti-oppression
One of the core expressions by PG’s staff of an anti-
oppression foundation for FJ was the distinction made
between social justice and charity. For FJ activists, charity
is insufficient for food activism because charity recognizes
problems in the agrifood system without proposing an
agenda to overcome structural inequalities. One of the
founders of PG responded to a conversation on the popular
COMFOOD listserv about calling communities such as
West Oakland ‘‘food deserts’’ by noting:
So the term food desert has emerged as a safe and
neutral way to avoid rocking the boat without an
analysis of inequity, racism, oppression, etc. But it is
dangerous to falsely describe a problem because the
result will be a false prescription of the solution. I
equate the difference between food desert and food
apartheid to the difference between charity and jus-
tice. Charity provides social services, while justice
promotes social change. Charity responds to imme-
diate needs, while justice responds to long-term
change. Charity assumes people need expertise and
help from others, while justice assumes people have
expertise and are capable of helping themselves. The
analysis and strategic choices that come with the
approach have huge implications for how, and even
if, a problem is sustainably solvedWe may live in
food deserts, but we live under food apartheid (Ah-
madi 2009).
The term ‘‘food desert’’ has emerged as a term to describe a
condition, which often leads food activists to lend chari-
table support to manage the symptoms of the condition,
whereas a term such as ‘‘food apartheid’’ lends itself to an
analysis of the structural causes behind the condition. This
framing reflects the anti-oppression ideology promoted by
Charity does not offer a vision or means for overcoming
inequalities via structural change because it often takes the
form of social services that respond to immediate needs,
such as food banks and federal food support programs. PG
views charity as private individual acts such as donating
cans of food to houses of worship or giving monetary
contributions to an emergency food shelter. Both forms of
charity share the important limitation of failing to address
structural inequalities or respond to consequences of the
agrifood system without seeking to change the underlying
causes. This organizational understanding corresponds with
research showing that individual action lacks the scale of
coordination and strategic vision necessary to bring about
enduring structural change that would obviate the need for
charity (Poppendieck 1998).
On the other hand, a social justice vision characterizes
inequalities as resulting from oppression and seeks to
address oppression at its root by promoting structural
change. One black female youth staff reflected on PG’s
purpose in the community: ‘‘Well, it’s just about food
injustice in general, but it’s really about the West Oakland
community and getting people to realize the problems that
Growing food justice by planting an anti-oppression foundation
are happening nowso we can try to work together to do
something about it.’’ Another black female youth staff
commented about how much she enjoys working with West
Oakland residents to solve food-related social problems, ‘‘I
like that we’re here to help, and not in a charity type of
way. That we’reworking together with the community to
try to fix it.’’ This clearly relates to the old adage that if you
give a person a fish they will only eat for a day, but if you
teach a person to fish they will eat for a lifetime. Structural
change, then, requires marginalized communities to take
over the project of FJ.
While there was general agreement among staff and
interns that FJ is the right of all people to have access to
healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food, anti-
oppression ideology pushed activists to consider extending
FJ to include transformative alternatives. For some, FJ is
not just about individual access to food; it is about building
an inclusive food community. One Latino male intern told
I think about myself more as part of a commu-
nityhuman beings that are making connections
across barriers that traditionally stand and try to
divide people, whether along race, gender, class, or
sexualityIn breaking those boundaries, I think that
is what I mean by community. So, you build a
community around food justice and you have people
that are willing to challenge what they would tradi-
tionally doIn my case, I am willing always to
confront my privilege.
This response mirrors a history of prefigurative politics
committed to participatory, inclusionary democratic pro-
cesses often missing from mainstream politics. Many FJ
activists expressed that developing new food relationships
is one way to create a new world within the shell of the old.
A black farmer for PG put it this way:
Food grows in the environment and it enters our
bodies, so it connects us back to the land. That’s
what’s so amazing about coming to the community
and bringing them food first (because it)allows
them to seefood is connectedto everything.
There’s been no culture that hasn’t been sustained by
Another key understanding of FJ revolved around the
emphasis on autonomy, or self-determination. A black
female staff member observed,
We, here, believe in this organization getting to the
point where it’s run by the community(t)he ideas
are filtered through the community, (and) the com-
munity has a greater stake in the organizationWe
don’t want to have a bunch of white people sitting
over here in the corner, pulling the strings and no
community representation.
Self-determination is thus a strategic long-term goal. The
ultimate goal of PG is not to have PG. To achieve this state
of autonomy from outside support, a white female staff
member provides a more concrete idea about the need for
listening mechanisms to vet community concerns through
question posing: ‘‘What do you think we should do? How
do you want to be involved? What are your ideas? What are
your ambitions? How do you want to use us to meet your
goals? And as soon as you begin to get that dynamicthat
kind of reciprocity, then you’ve got something to build
on.’’ A Latino farmer provides another concrete vision,
noting that,
Getting more people involved and having more
control of their dollar is really importantyou could
really help promote having small-scale farmers and
people of color involved in the creation of new
farmers’ markets andbring in vendors that are
local, to help keep the local dollar within the
Inclusion as well as autonomy thus constitute distinct
emphases of an anti-oppression grounding of FJ among
staff and interns at PG.
Organizational challenges of mobilizing around food
Understandings of anti-oppression among staff and interns
at PG reveal internal and structural challenges to achieving
FJ. An internal challenge noted above is that the under-
standings of anti-oppression ideology among individual
activists may not correspond to the public discourse of PG
as an organization.
One of the most pressing obstacles to actualizing FJ is
achieving an agreeable ideological underpinning for PG as
an organization to support broader mobilization efforts. As
noted earlier, PG’s stated mission is to improve the health
and economy of West Oakland. However, the framing of
FJ is grounded in principles that take seriously the histor-
ical causes of inequality. Temporally and conceptually
extending an activist’s understanding of the historical
problem complicates what should be done in the present. A
white female intern captures some of the complexity of
West Oakland’s problems: ‘‘you can’t just realize that
people don’t have food, you need to realize why they live
there in the first place, why everyone is living on a liquid
fraction zone, why there’sfreeways (everywhere), why
there’s no public transportationno garbage cansno
mailboxes, there’s nothing.’’ This disjuncture between the
J. Sbicca
stated mission and recognition by some activists of many
entrenched social problems often led to the questioning of
what forms of collective action were necessary to actualize
While some PG activists focus on the individual right
to healthy food, others think communities should not
participate in the industrialized agrifood system, and some
want more black and Latino/a farmers. When FJ is used
as a catchall to work towards transformative social
change, the clarity of purposes can become blurred. A
south Asian female intern expressed that economic issues
were most pressing: ‘‘peopledon’t have jobs, (there are)
a lot of homeless people, housesin disrepair, (and)
crimeJust on the block that we have our yard (PG’s
former greenhouse), there was a shooting a month and a
half ago’ Seeing the importance of improving health
through food, another Latino male intern linked food to
environmental concerns: ‘the toxins and the diesel that
seeps into the cement and then gets into the water supply
and then poisons the kids that go to schoolAll that
bullshit happens in West Oakland.’’ While these per-
spectives are not mutually exclusive, there are enough
differences to show that anti-oppression ideology, which
inherently links many social problems together, when tied
to FJ leads to multiple understandings that may be diffi-
cult to harness into a concerted course of action.
Agreement was not always easy to achieve among staff
and interns. The labor of interns and volunteers was framed
by staff as ‘‘solidarity work,’’ but one anti-oppression
training may be insufficient to communicate the purpose
and role of interns. One white female intern noted, ‘‘I don’t
feel I have the power. I don’t feel that’s my position
because I never talk to anyone who is more head up in the
organization. I don’t even know who that is.’’ From
speaking with a number of the staff, PG is open to creative
ideas, but the role of interns in the process of defining goals
was limited. While some interns had creative license, many
felt like hired labor, and oftentimes struggled with con-
necting their work growing food to the larger FJM.
If interns feel disconnected from those in more pow-
erful positions in the organization, there is the potential
for motivation to wane and lackadaisical attitudes to
result. Moreover, this could lead to a reduction in vol-
unteer labor hours put into organizational programs.
While this seems like a tactical problem, it also reflects
the misalignment between the deeper ideological com-
mitment of the leadership of the organization and the
ideologies of certain interns. This in turn may lead to
reduced activist participation and commitment to the FJM
among the very group of people—those volunteering to
be part of an ‘‘allyship’’—needed to bring about changes
in the agrifood system envisioned by an anti-oppression
Also important are structural challenges. PG is a
501(c)(3) organization, which by law means that any
electoral politics and lobbying activity are quite limited.
Avenues of entry into politics are becoming overrun by a
multi-hundred billion dollar non-profit industry that largely
employs people in the social service, health, and education
sectors, but minimally in the advocacy sector (Salamon
et al. 1999). Thus, food activists seeking to radically alter
food relations may be organizationally limited by the non-
profit model, in a way similar to how many transformative
political strategies have been stymied by the outsourcing of
grassroots activism to large political consulting non-profits
(Fisher 2006). Although this article supports the argument
that ‘‘anti-racist practice is critical to building community
food systems’’ (Slocum 2006, p. 343), the findings suggest
difficulties in actualizing new organizational and discursive
forms that resonate among FJ activists.
Representing and reflecting West Oakland residents
While the analysis thus far has focused on intra-organiza-
tional tensions, the mention of structural issues also brings
up additional contextual challenges, including community-
level difficulties that arise during the framing process. PG
has spread the vision of FJ using different media channels,
thus achieving national exposure within the AFM. Yet,
challenges remain in reaching residents right in West
Oakland. While it is reasonable to frame FJ critiques by
highlighting the structural problems faced by residents in
terms of West Oakland’s history of institutional racism,
West Oakland residents have largely not been part of the
framing process. This raises the question of the degree to
which West Oakland residents need to participate in PG’s
activities to legitimate FJ principles.
There is a fine balance for FJOs between understanding
the community FJ activists are in solidarity with and
assuming to represent the community. Very few PG staff or
interns call West Oakland home. This identity barrier has
broader implications for how volunteers or interns stepping
into an FJO view their role and engage with community
residents. One black female staff member who has regular
interaction with West Oakland residents noted that FJ
There is some recent evidence suggesting slight shifts in founda-
tion funding toward more radical organizations. In 2011, PG received
a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for efforts to fight
structural racism in the agrifood system. The America Healing
initiative is investing $75 million over 5 years to work towards racial
justice. Specifically, PG received money for its racial healing efforts
at cultural and institutional levels.
Since my fieldwork was completed, PG has started the Growing
Justice Initiative. This is a community driven program meant to
provide the space and resources for community members to set up
their own projects.
Growing food justice by planting an anti-oppression foundation
activists cannot claim to represent a particular community
unless they have similar lived experiences.
There will probably be some resistance because who
are you to come and tell me what it is I needI
haven’t died on the sidewalk yet, so who are you?
And then this concept that we are an organization of
color and a lot of it iscolor with privilege. You
don’t have my shared experience; you don’t know
what it’s like to live with a parent in the pen or a
parent on drugs, having to hustle for your everyday
meal. You don’t know what that’s like and if you do,
then yes, we have something to talk about. But until
someone can step to the plate and be face to face with
the individual who says, ‘‘Yeah, I haven’t eaten in
days’’ or ‘‘I’m smoking cigarettes to keep my stom-
ach from growling’’ or ‘‘I’m hustling every day,
taking a chance to take my money back home and
feed whomever’(then) there needs to be someone
here on the justice side, not just the food side.
This anti-oppression analysis clearly articulates the role of
class privilege. Most activists in the FJM in Oakland,
especially those who have the cultural, economic, and
social capital to found non-profits do not regularly
experience the degree of poverty found in West Oakland.
Almost all PG staff and interns had college degrees.
Therefore, the organizational focus on privilege reiterates
the importance for activists to take account of their social
position if there is to be not only more equitable
distribution of food, but also racial and economic justice.
Conclusion: critical reflections on growing the food
justice movement
People’s Grocery builds off the tactical repertoires and
ideologies of previous social justice movements within
West Oakland, which leads to grounding FJ in an anti-
oppression ideology premised on notions of social justice
and autonomy. PG’s anti-oppression practice integrates
theoretical and historical understandings of structural eco-
nomic, racial, and gender inequality in the agrifood system
with a set of mobilization tactics aimed at creating the
conditions for self-determined and just agrifood systems.
However, there are three main challenges faced by non-
profits fighting for FJ that integrate radical perspectives
into their mobilization strategies. First, there remains a
need to develop a common understanding of FJ with an
ideological base from which a clear set of tactics follow.
An implication of this finding is that scholars and activists
need to pay attention to the relationship between anti-
oppression frames and understandings of FJ within the
FJM. Second, the formation of an FJO is beyond the means
of many marginalized groups, which thus face challenges
of adequately representing the experiences and needs of the
target community. Third, and relatedly, FJOs that are non-
profits may be limited to developing programs that address
immediate needs without changing the structural roots of
conditions involving inequalities. These last two findings
indicate the importance of recognizing that the link from FJ
discourse and programmatic efforts is not automatically
accepted by groups who stand to benefit from FJ, nor for
that matter, by political and economic powers.
Although not without tensions, planting anti-oppression
ideological seeds for the FJM offers both a structural cri-
tique and a transformative substitute to the AFM. FJ
encourages activist reflexivity and resonates with the rad-
ical contingent of the AFM. Because of its radicalism in
linking food to all manner of putatively unrelated issues
concerning inequalities and injustice, FJ is stimulating
increasing efforts by activists and scholars to begin to unite
the strands of the AFM committed to developing just and
sustainable agrifood systems.
There will always be
diversity of experiences, so having participatory commu-
nication strategies that effectively bridge the gap between
different notions of FJ might help empower more FJ allies.
Anti-oppression trainings partially serve such a purpose by
helping to give cohesive meaning to ideas important to
participants. However, activists need to have the space to
employ those ideas most pertinent to the movement, so it is
imperative that participatory systems are created for
diverse activists to develop critiques and solutions pre-
mised on an open understanding of FJ that are then inte-
grated into movement-building efforts. Taking these
actions may help to build a strong base from which to scale
the anti-oppression foundations and autonomous practices
of FJOs, one community at a time.
FJ that rests on an anti-oppression ideology points to
three major discursive nodes that expand mobilization
possibilities. First, it challenges all oppressive structures
propping up the industrialized agrifood system throughout
civil society, the economy, and political system. Second, FJ
prioritizes building solidarity among activists and com-
munities by promoting tactics premised on social justice
and self-determination. And third, FJ prioritizes carving
out creative spaces, what Carolan (2006) refers to as
‘tactile spaces,’’ for local residents to come up with
solutions that are appropriate for their community and
ecosystem (i.e., reflecting the situated knowledge of low-
income people and people of color). Radical discursive
spaces can open up possibilities within which to develop
material alternatives.
See Holt-Gime
´mez’s (2011) edited book Food Movements Unite!.
Contained therein are essays exploring how to bridge food justice,
food sovereignty, and food democracy efforts.
J. Sbicca
An analysis of PG nonetheless reveals the strain
between discursively promoting local community auton-
omy while at the same time still relying on alternative food
models that largely respond to individual needs. Although
critical of the capitalist organization of food production,
PG is still largely reliant on capitalism’s economic logic.
There is a desire among many of the activists to carve out
space for alternative epistemologies that reflect local
knowledge, and local iterations of autonomy, but many of
the tactics draw on a liberal individualistic-rationalist dis-
course (Pen
˜a2005). Thus, localized consumer politics is
insufficient to bring about FJ because many communities
do not have the buying power to obtain organic, sustain-
able, and boutique food; inequality does not disappear with
a spatial reordering of food production and consumption
(DuPuis and Goodman 2005; Feagan 2007).
Moreover, FJOs focus mainly on community building pro-
grams because they rely on grants, which come with limitations
and requirements that may impede the development and
implementation of more radical organizational forms, dis-
courses, and strategies. The foregoing analysis illustrates the
tension often experienced by activists when trying to integrate
radical critiques of structural inequalities with mobilization
strategies that would lead to transformative alternatives.
Engaging in more political work with a higher profile remains a
challenge for PG and perhaps FJOs more generally. One sug-
gestion for FJOs is to collaborate with other social justice
organizations to collectively pressure local governments to
increase the efficacy of food policy councils that support the
work of community based organizations and non-profits dedi-
catedtoFJ(Wekerle2004). If this proves ineffective, com-
pletely forgoing mainstream politics and focusing on building
grassroots coalitions may be necessary. Specifically, this can be
accomplished through forming alliances that opt out of the
corporate agrifood system, developing distinct agrifood alter-
natives, and constituting new networks from farm to table
premised on social justice and sustainability.
Because PG is one of the most visible FJOs in the
United States, findings about how FJ is understood and
represented can be extended beyond this one case. The case
of PG highlights the challenges faced by FJ, especially to
the weaving of radical critiques with practical alternatives
within the FJM. However, scholarship on the FJM can be
advanced through more rigorous comparative studies. Such
studies can help answer looming questions such as ‘‘How
are FJ efforts addressing different segments of the agrifood
system (production, processing, distribution, consumption,
and disposal) becoming integrated into a broad-based
FJM?’’; ‘‘To what degree do alliances across food and
agricultural workers and consumers build power to push
governments and agribusiness towards more just and sus-
tainable agrifood systems?’’; and ‘‘How might geographies
of difference across racial, class, and gender lines
complicate FJ efforts?’’ We know that demographic and
geographic differences influence attempts to create socially
just local agrifood systems (Allen 2010), but more research
is needed on how FJOs are working to scale up radical
discourses and practices that integrate environmental,
political, cultural, and economic concerns.
The FJM is working to integrate myriad concerns,
necessarily making the movement’s ideological foundation
more complex. Yet, this foundation provides fertile soil
from which to grow a new network of organizations and
institutions required for transformative social change.
Fortified with a critical consciousness grounded in anti-
oppression ideology, FJ activists are rooting out inequali-
ties within their ranks and planting seeds that respect and
celebrate difference. Cultivating just and sustainable agri-
food systems, then, requires not only dogged determination
and creativity, but also a culture of unity in diversity.
Acknowledgments I owe a debt of gratitude to all the volunteers,
interns, staff, and West Oakland residents I learned from while
working as an ally with People’s Grocery. Thank you for sharing your
lives and thoughts with me. Many thanks also to Brian Mayer, Ste-
phen Perz, and Kendal Broad for helpful feedback on various versions
of this manuscript. Upon submission, I received many constructive
and supportive comments and suggestions from three anonymous
reviewers and from the editor, Harvey James.
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Author Biography
Joshua Sbicca is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology,
Criminology and Law at the University of Florida. His research
interests include the food justice movement, the food sovereignty
movement, environmental knowledge production, and the political
ecology of toxics.
J. Sbicca
... Terminology such as alternative food networks, urban planning, and non-commodification of the food system represented opportunities for the community to engage in food policy decision making and governance (44,56,76,80,83,(91)(92)(93)(94) . Urban agriculture, community gardens, farmers' markets, community and school-led, owned, and controlled food solutions all provide opportunities for communities to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, empowered to take control and make decisions about their own food systems (48,50,68,83,91,(94)(95)(96)(97)(98) . ...
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Objective The emerging concept of ‘food justice’ has been described as a movement and a set of principles that align with the goals of social justice, which demands recognition of human rights, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and is participatory and community specific. Considering its widespread use and variable definitions, this study establishes the scope of research by exploring diverse conceptualizations of food justice. Design A scoping review of peer-reviewed literature was conducted using the term “food justice”. This study used a five-step scoping review protocol. The databases included Scopus, Web of Science and Medline (OVID). Data were extracted on country of origin, research discipline, study type and conceptualizations of food justice. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to identify the themes. Results The search identified 546 abstracts of which 90 were peer-reviewed studies. Thematic analysis revealed five themes of food justice across 90 studies: 1) social equity, 2) food security 3) food systems transformation, 4) community participation and agency, and 5) environmental sustainability. Conclusions Current conceptualizations of food justice are evolving. Together these themes embrace a more holistic and structural view of the food system. They emphasize healthy, sustainable, and equitable food as a human right and acknowledge the need to address structural barriers to that right. Despite its 20-year history the parameters of food justice are still not well defined, making it difficult for communities to mobilize for transformative change. Community participation and agency in food justice decision-making are critical to create a healthy, sustainable, and more just food system.
... Over the past few years, an increasing number of studies has emphasized the connections between urban agriculture practices and food justice movements emerging in the Global North (Heynen et al., 2012;Sbicca, 2012;Agyeman and Mcentee, 2014;Galt et al., 2014;Tornaghi, 2014Tornaghi, , 2017. These works uphold a standard definition of the food justice movement that calls attention to the multiple ways in which socioeconomically disadvantaged groups are affected throughout the food system. ...
... Over the past few years, an increasing number of studies has emphasized the connections between urban agriculture practices and food justice movements emerging in the Global North (Heynen et al., 2012;Sbicca, 2012;Agyeman and Mcentee, 2014;Galt et al., 2014;Tornaghi, 2014Tornaghi, , 2017. These works uphold a standard definition of the food justice movement that calls attention to the multiple ways in which socioeconomically disadvantaged groups are affected throughout the food system. ...
... Persistent food insecurity is the second common issue that motivated the formation of all six programs, although the causes of food insecurity varied. EBUFFS activists and FW educators observed the concentrated food insecurity in communities of color and saw jobs in urban agriculture as a key to not only improving access to food but also to escaping poverty and increasing local control of the food system (White 2010;Sbicca 2012). In Cuba, after the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe in 1989 and the United States trade embargo, the country was no longer able to import sufficient food, or the machinery, inputs and petroleum needed to maintain a conventional production model. ...
Social movements are using education to generate critical consciousness regarding the social and environmental unsustainability of the current food system, and advocate for agroecological production. In this article, we explore results from a cross-case analysis of six social movements that are using education as a strategy to advance food sovereignty. We conducted participatory research with diverse rural and urban social movements in the United States, Brazil, Cuba, Bolivia, and Mexico, which are each educating for food sovereignty. We synthesize insights from critical food systems education and the political ecology of education in analyzing these cases. We compare the thematic similarities and difference between these movements’ education initiatives in terms of their emergence, initial goals, expansion and institutionalization, relationship to the state, theoretical inspirations, pedagogical approach, educational topics, approach to student research, and outcomes. Among these thematic areas, we find that student-centered research on competing forms of production is an integral way to advance critical consciousness about the food system and the political potential of agroecological alternatives. However, what counts, as success in these programs, is highly case-dependent. For engaged scholars committed to advancing education for food sovereignty, it is essential to reflect upon the lessons learned and challenges faced by these movements.
... Enterprises that address the violent and oppressive history of Black Americans, while simultaneously celebrating Black culture, positions Black history and culture to heal trauma and promote community solidarity. Learning about and reframing historical traumas is a key part of many placemaking projects within Black communities (Sbicca 2012), and is essential to building stronger communities and stimulating community economies. ...
This paper presents a case study of Gardens and Green Spaces (GGS), a resident-driven, grant-funded project in Cleveland, Ohio working toward community change. Through both placemaking and entrepreneurial strategies, the main grant objectives are to effect change at the intersection of food (and agriculture), arts, and culture in Kinsman, a 96% Black Neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side. While community development (CD) projects are often designed by outside ‘experts’ who inform the scope and focus of grant-funded projects, this project is rooted in the hypothesis that a resident-driven approach to CD will lead to increased community buy-in and participation, resulting in more lasting and substantive community change. GGS works across sectors, integrating arts, culture, and food to promote placemaking and community-based entrepreneurial engagement as a path towards greater health, equity, and economic resilience. This paper argues that community-based and resident-driven development—although not without its own challenges—can result in more holistic community transformation across sectors, with the potential for greater resident participation, sustainability, and equity. The case study presented in this paper, including in-depth interviews and neighborhood surveys, is an examination of the pilot phase of GGS, and argues that both placemaking and entrepreneurialism represent a negotiation between market driven community development and a solely philanthropic model. It provides insight into more equitable and sustainable change that has the potential to shift the traditional paradigm of expert driven, or “outside-in” community development.KeywordsCommunity developmentClevelandUrban food productionCreative placemakingUrban agricultureUrban planningLandFoodArtsCulturePhilanthropy
The primary objective of this study was to describe the food landscape of Flint, Michigan, and the surrounding townships. We investigated the relationship between the location of food outlets and the racial composition of census tracts. We collected data from multiple sources; however, Data Axle, a repository of information on the U.S. and Canadian businesses, was our primary data source. Data were collected and verified between September 2020 and December 2021. The final fact-checking was completed in June 2022. We used ArcGIS 10.8.1 and SPSS Version 28 to map and analyze the data. We conducted negative binomial regression analyses to identify the difference in the likelihood of finding food retailers in census tracts where the percentage of Black residents was low and those where the percentage of Blacks was high. The article examines 1,137 food retailers in the study area: 407 were in Flint, and the remainder in the surrounding townships. Restaurants—especially fast food and take-out establishments—dominated the food environment. In addition, small groceries and convenience stores proliferated in the grocery store category. The racial composition of the census tracts mattered. Census tracts in which more than 40% of the residents are Black have a mean of 7.6 food outlets. In comparison, census tracts in which 40% or less of the residents are Black have a mean of 11.3 food outlets; the difference is significant. Census tracts with a high percentage of Blacks also had significantly fewer restaurants. The results of this study show Flint’s food landscape to be more complex and robust than described in earlier studies. It underscores the point that researchers should not rely solely on documenting the presence of supermarkets or traditional grocery stores when addressing food insecurity and food access. In the case of Flint, such food outlets comprise only 2.2% of the food landscape. Focusing exclusively on these food retailers misses several important types of food venues that residents rely on to secure food. This siloed approach also ignores the resilience and ingenuity of residents to respond to limited access to traditional food retailers.
Justice is a term increasingly used in rural studies and agri-food systems research. In this article, we examine how rural studies can gain by more directly integrating food justice and its focus on transformative intervention. First, we identify existing gaps in discussions about social justice in relation to rurality in the United States. Second, we analyze prominent food justice literature and its main conceptualizations, characteristics, and gaps in relation to rurality. Drawing on existing gaps and opportunities in rural studies and food justice, we discuss why and how critical analyses of race/white supremacy, intersectionality, and engaged scholarship can strengthen the study of injustices in rural settings. In prioritizing these aspects, rural scholars might adopt powerful lenses for interrogating the ongoing hegemonies of rural communities while also facilitating greater engagement in social justice within and outside our disciplines.
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In the last decade the framing perspective has gained increasing popularity among social movement researchers and theorists. Surprisingly, there has been no critical assessment of this growing body of literature. Though the perspective has made significant contributions to the movements literature, it suffers from several shortcomings. These include neglect of systematic empirical studies, descriptive bias, static tendencies, reification, reductionism, elite bias, and monolithic tendencies. In addition to a critique of extant movement framing literature. I offer several remedies and illustrate them with recent work. The articles by Francesca Polletta, John H. Evans, Sharon Erickson Nepstad, and Ira Silver in this special section address several of the concerns raised in this critique and, in so doing, contribute to the integration of structural and cultural approaches to social movements.
Activists, analysts, and practitioners describe innovative strategies that promote healthy neighborhoods, fair housing, and accessible transportation throughout America's cities and suburbs. The emerging metropolitan regional-equity movement promotes innovative policies to ensure that all communities in a metropolitan region share resources and opportunities equally. Too often, low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and lack access to basic infrastructure and job opportunities. The metropolitan regional-equity movement—sometimes referred to as a new civil rights movement—works for solutions to these problems that take into account entire metropolitan regions: the inner-city core, the suburbs, and exurban areas. This book describes current efforts to create sustainable communities with attention to the “triple bottom line”—economy, environment, and equity—and argues that these three interests are mutually reinforcing. After placing the movement in its historical, racial, and class context, Breakthrough Communities offers case studies in which activists' accounts alternate with policy analyses. These describe efforts in Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Camden, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas to address such problems as vacant property, brownfields, affordable housing, accessible transportation, community food security, and the aftermath of Katrina and September 11. The volume concludes by considering future directions for the movement, including global linkages devoted to such issues as climate change. ContributorsCarl Anthony, Angela Glover Blackwell, Robert D. Bullard, Sheryll Cashin, Kizzy Charles-Guzmán, Don Chen, Celine d'Cruz, Amy B, Dean, Hattie Dorsey, Cynthia M. Duncan, Juliet Ellis, Danny Feingold, Deeohn Ferris, Kenneth Galdston, Greg Galluzzo, Howard Gillette Jr., David Goldberg, Robert Gottlieb, Bart Harvey, William A. Johnson Jr., Chris Jones, Van Jones, Anupama Joshi, Bruce Katz, Victoria Kovari, Mike Kruglik, Steve Lerner, Greg Leroy, Amy Liu, Stephen McCullough, Mary Nelson, Jeremy Nowak, Myron Orfield, Manuel Pastor, M. Paloma Pavel, john a. powell, Cheryl Rivera, Faith R. Rivers, Nicolas Ronderos, Rachel Rosner, David Rusk, Priscilla Salant, David Satterthwaite, Ellen Schneider, Peggy M. Shepard, L. Benjamin Starrett, Jennie Stephens, Elizabeth Tan, Petra Todorovich, Andrea Torrice, Mark Vallianatos, Robert Yaro
Documents how racial and social inequalities are built into our food system, and how communities are creating environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives. Popularized by such best-selling authors as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser, a growing food movement urges us to support sustainable agriculture by eating fresh food produced on local family farms. But many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been systematically deprived of access to healthy and sustainable food. These communities have been actively prevented from producing their own food and often live in “food deserts” where fast food is more common than fresh food. Cultivating Food Justice describes their efforts to envision and create environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives to the food system. Bringing together insights from studies of environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, critical race theory, and food studies, Cultivating Food Justice highlights the ways race and class inequalities permeate the food system, from production to distribution to consumption. The studies offered in the book explore a range of important issues, including agricultural and land use policies that systematically disadvantage Native American, African American, Latino/a, and Asian American farmers and farmworkers; access problems in both urban and rural areas; efforts to create sustainable local food systems in low-income communities of color; and future directions for the food justice movement. These diverse accounts of the relationships among food, environmentalism, justice, race, and identity will help guide efforts to achieve a just and sustainable agriculture.
The concept of framing has come to be recognized as one of the few foundational ideas in social movement theory in a relatively short time. However, its core meaning as an interpretive process has never been given adequate theoretical treatment. I propose that the operant meaning of framing is a composite of two grounding ideas: framing is (1) derivative of ideology, and (2) a form of strategic meaning construction; and that these are jointly incorporated in persuasive discourse. I explore the framing literature and show that it contains at least six distinct forms of framing defined by the different ways in which ideology and the strategic imperative are bundled together. Finally, I suggest that these types may have quite different implications for the fate of the movement.
There are a number of conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues in the literature on environmental justice and environmental inequalities in need of refinement. Using dat from the recycling industry, the author proposes an environmental inequality formation (EIF) perspective to address these issues. The EIF perspective synthesizes three major points that are largely neglected in research on environmental inequalities: (a) the importance of process and history, (b) the role of multiple stakeholder relationships, and (c) a Life-cycle approach to the study of hazards. The EIF model captures sociological dynamics in ways that suggest that environmental racism and inequalities originate and emerge in a,much more complex process than previously considered. Theory building in this area of research will aid scholars in understanding the mechanisms that produce environmental inequalities as well as their socioenvironmental consequences.
As the birthplace of the Black Panthers and a nationwide tax revolt, California embodied a crucial motif of the postwar United States: the rise of suburbs and the decline of cities, a process in which black and white histories inextricably joined. American Babylon tells this story through Oakland and its nearby suburbs, tracing both the history of civil rights and black power politics as well as the history of suburbanization and home-owner politics. Robert Self shows that racial inequities in both New Deal and Great Society liberalism precipitated local struggles over land, jobs, taxes, and race within postwar metropolitan development. Black power and the tax revolt evolved together, in tension. American Babylon demonstrates that the history of civil rights and black liberation politics in California did not follow a southern model, but represented a long-term struggle for economic rights that began during the World War II years and continued through the rise of the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. This struggle yielded a wide-ranging and profound critique of postwar metropolitan development and its foundation of class and racial segregation. Self traces the roots of the 1978 tax revolt to the 1940s, when home owners, real estate brokers, and the federal government used racial segregation and industrial property taxes to forge a middle-class lifestyle centered on property ownership. Using the East Bay as a starting point, Robert Self gives us a richly detailed, engaging narrative that uniquely integrates the most important racial liberation struggles and class politics of postwar America.
Challenged by Ku Klux Klan action in the '20s, labor protests culminating in a general strike in the '40s, and the rise of the civil rights and black power struggles of the '60s, Oakland, California, seems to encapsulate in one city the broad and varied sweep of urban social movements in twentieth-century America. Taking Oakland as a case study of urban politics and society in the United States, Chris Rhomberg examines the city's successive episodes of popular insurgency for what they can tell us about critical discontinuities in the American experience of urban political community.