I managed to escape my office today long enough to attend a talk by Robert Gottlieb on his latest book, “Food Justice.” I haven’t read it yet, but took a look through the table of contents during the talk and came back to my office and ordered myself a copy. Gottlieb and his coauthor Anapuma Joshi set their book apart from many of the other food-oriented books out now by addressing food’s implications for social justice from start to finish: growing the food, transporting it, serving it, eating it (not sure if they get into waste too). Most activist groups and scholars that I know of tend to focus on just one aspect of food, for example, industrial agriculture or organic food. This results in groups that could conceivably give each other a lot of political support remaining fairly separate instead. I do see some signs of convergence though. For example, the food movement, which has largely relied on market-based strategies such as organic labeling to promote their cause, is increasingly looking to policy solutions in the Farm Bill and other laws. And some environmental justice groups in the Central Valley, which have largely relied on community organizing and policy solutions to advance their causes, are interested in exploring market-based solutions to help lead their communities out of poverty (see, for example, the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment’s new project to help farmworkers become organic farmers). Hopefully “Food Justice” is a sign of increased collaboration to come between these groups.
I’m also looking forward to reading the review of the book written by long-time sustainable agriculture educator Cristof Bernau in the upcoming edition of Human Ecology.