Breaking the Food Chains: An Investigation of Food Justice Activism



This article develops the concept of food justice, which places access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food in the contexts of institutional racism, racial formation, and racialized geographies. Through comparative ethnographic case studies, we analyze the demands for food justice articulated by the Karuk Tribe of California and the West Oakland Food Collaborative. Activists in these communities use an environmental justice frame to address access to healthy food, advocating for a local food system in West Oakland, and for the demolition of Klamath River dams that prevent subsistence fishing. Food justice serves as a theoretical and political bridge between scholarship and activism on sustainable agriculture, food insecurity, and environmental justice. This concept brings the environmental justice emphasis on racially stratified access to environmental benefits to bear on the sustainable agriculture movement's attention to the processes of food production and consumption. Furthermore, we argue that the concept of food justice can help the environmental justice movement move beyond several limitations of their frequent place-based approach and the sustainable agriculture movement to more meaningfully incorporate issues of equity and social justice. Additionally, food justice may help activists and policymakers working on food security to understand the institutionalized nature of denied access to healthy food.