Week 6 - Food Injustice

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  • the US exports a high proportion of its commodity crops to the rest of the world. For example, in 2010, over 53 percent of all corn exports in the world were from the US.  FThe exportation of these commodity crops affects farmers in the rest of the world – especially small farmers with limited resources. A large influx of commodity crops from the US can affect local food security, as small farmers cannot compete with less expensive (subsidized) US-produced agricultural products
  • In the US, the term “food desert” is often used to describe a location that has limited access to healthful, nutritious food, especially in low-income neighborhoods.  FFor example, individuals in some neighborhoods may have easier access to fast food and junk food than to fruits and vegetables.  FHowever, there is some disagreement on what constitutes a food desert (i.e., what is an acceptable distance from a source of healthful food, such as a supermarket), and it is unclear whether true food deserts are as common as postulated by policymakers.  F F  Others see the term as being not inclusive of other issues related to health and obesity, including: poverty and other socio-demographic factors; ease of access to healthful food, rather than lack of access; increased access to unhealthful food choices; exercise/physical activity; and unhealthful food choices related to cultural or economic factors.
  • Must be careful with this term “food desert.” Many people have taken offense to it – it’s like labeling an area a ghetto…
  • Farm workers receive an average of 0.3% of the income from the food industry


  • 1.  Food Justice – food, and way it is grown and produced, should be DISTRIBUTED fairly  Food Sovereignty – The focus on food security, without addressing the PRODUCTION of food, has caused poor, food-insecure countries to import cheap, subsidized food  Impacts local farmers, economies, and cultures  Advocates for LOCAL production + consumption  Local = avoids cycle of poverty ($), reliance on foreign imports, and long-term problems
  • 2. “Food Security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” ~World Summit on Food Security, 1996
  • 3.  F0od Distribution – NOT food production  Political or logistical  Political-Agricultural Practices  Substituting commodity crops for food crops (i.e. growing corn instead of veggies) – healthy food not supported by US farming policy  US’s “cheap commodity crop” exports – impacts global and local farmers who can’t compete with these prices  Demand for biofuels – corn and soy (decreased viable land for food production)
  • 4.  Food Deserts - Low-income areas >500 people or 33% of the population live farther than one mile away (10 miles in rural areas) from an affordable food store.
  • 5.  Food Balance - Distance to closest grocer / Distance to closest fast food  2.3 million U.S. households (2.2%) live farther than a mile from nearest supermarket with no access to a car.  23.5 million people live in low-income area over a mile from nearest supermarket  6.5 million children live in food deserts.
  • 6.  Highest levels of obesity are in census tracts with no supermarkets  COSTS: lost quality/length of life for those directly affected = Higher medical costs  Link between food deserts and Medicaid use
  • 7.  55 square miles of Food Deserts with 383,954 people,  70% are African American  Childhood Obesity rates in Illinois are double U.S. rates
  • 8. ““(Farm workers) are involved in the planting and the cultivation and the harvesting of the greatest abundance of food known in this society… The ironic thing and the tragic thing is that after they make this tremendous contribution, they don’t have any money or any food left for themselves.”” ~Cesar Chavez, Labor Leader & Civil Rights Activist
  • 9.  Farm workers have the lowest annual family incomes of any U.S. wage and salary workers.  Farm workers work 42 hours per week and earn ~ $7.25 an hour  Annually, the average income of crop worker is between $10,000 - $12,499 for individuals / $15,000 - $17,499 for a family  Federal poverty line - $10,830 for individual; $22,050 for family of four (2009)  30% of all farm workers had total family incomes below poverty line
  • 10.  Most farm workers are paid based on how many buckets or bags they pick or whatever crop they harvest = “piece rate”  Drawbacks – Disincentive for breaks for water or shade  Making less than minimum wage –  Piece rate for Florida oranges is 85 cents per 90-pound box  Ave. productivity is 8 boxes an hour  8-hour day – 5760 pounds of oranges = $6.80 an hour  Labor laws are poorly enforced at best OR farm workers are paid little to no wage = modern slavery conditions
  • 11. Member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in FL shows an actual farm worker paycheck, with piece rates from tomatoes listed
  • 12.  Farm worker unemployment rates are double those of all wage and salary workers  Many are day laborers – must chase crops to make a living  At the mercy of variable conditions like natural disasters and bad weather  Lack benefits that labor laws guarantee to workers in other industries (no overtime, sick, maternity…)  Wages have declined by 20% in the last 20 years  Exposure to pesticides, back issues (lifting and bending over), machines, sun/climate…
  • 13.  Agriculture is one of the top three most dangerous occupations in the US  Housing – crowded, unsanitary, lack basic utilities, isolated from public transportation…  Exorbitant rate for rent – often crowd 10 workers into one trailer in order to afford rent  Children and teens – 500,000 estimated under the age or 18  Farm worker women – given least desired, lowest-paying jobs, and face discrimination
  • 14. SUMMIT COUNTY Population – 30,000 Liquor store – ? Fast Food – ? Grocery Stores - ? WEST OAKLAND Population – 30,000 Liquor store – 53 Fast Food – 12 Grocery Stores - 0
  • 15.  What is the first thing you see when you enter your local corner store?  Map the fast food restaurants in your neighborhood.  Map the grocery stores.  How do the maps compare to each other?  Where do you buy most of your food?