Introduction to Food Studies Class, Fall 2020

Post by Anna Conley

In the class Introduction to Food Studies, we’ve covered everything from how food is produced to how it impacts people directly. This past week, the classes took a more specific route, covering the ideas of food justice, food sovereignty, and how that impacts immigrant populations specifically.

On Monday, we read about and discussed the difference between food justice and food sovereignty. Food justice relates to the idea that institutional racism has led to major disparities within food access, and that these disparities must be fixed through proper racial justice. Food sovereignty is taking the power away from institutions that have monopolized the food system, such as Monsanto and the US government, and putting the power back with the people. Both of these ideas focus on people having equitable access to food and knocking down institutions that have stopped equity in the past.

On Wednesday, we were able to see a real-life example of how people are taking the power back in food systems. We met with Vietlead, a community organization that connects minority residents, mostly Vietnamese immigrants, to urban farming efforts in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey. Vietlead recognized the fact that many of the immigrant residents in these neighborhoods were food insecure, despite emigrating from an area where they always had access to fresh and healthy foods. In an attempt to provide fresh food to the residents, Vietlead started two urban farms where community members can grow their own food. Through this process, immigrants were able to control what foods they had access to, not what was dictated through America’s Eurocentric foodways. Within the farm, they grow a crop called water spinach which the U.S. has deemed as an invasive species, however Vietlead compares that label to a racist outlook on immigrants, both being seen as “competitive” and “unwanted”. Knowing how to grow the crop properly stops the seeds from spreading, stopping its danger to the environment and allows for immigrants to have power over their own food, not institutions that have monopolized the foodways. Vietlead has provided a clear example of how to implement food justice and food sovereignty into a community and restore food power to the people.