Food justice: the way to tackle food insecurity?

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We have entered an age where food insecurity is commonplace.

Families who could once afford a diverse and healthy diet are now faced with crippling prices and growing shopping bills.

Evidence of how big the problem has become can be seen in food banks which are running out of supplies and have been forced to turn people away due to “overwhelming” demand.

In response to the global issue of food insecurity, Birmingham City Council has encouraged cities worldwide to sign the ‘City Pledge Commitment’ to ensure everyone can benefit from a more affordable, nutritious and sustainable food system.

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Whether you are a city that is saturated by fast food or a city in a food desert, food security is now an issue for every citizen across the world.”

Undoubtedly, the covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on household food security and nutrition, and ongoing global conflicts continue to hamper the state of food security for millions.

With an ever-surging global population, the time to rectify the disproportionate access to healthy food is now – it’s just a matter of how.

What is food justice? 


Food justice is the human right to grow, sell and eat healthy food, a perspective upon which the Food Justice movement was founded.

Emerging as a grassroots initiative, the campaign was originally formed during the apex of the civil rights Movement in America after the Mississippi Board of Supervisors decided to cut funding for the Federal Surplus Commodities.

This programme provided many poor Black communities in the South with staples such as flour and meal.

As a result of the cuts, food insecurity among these communities worsened and led to members sharing resources to survive.

Such mutual aid brought about the movement’s beginnings and was later reflected in the Black Panther Party’s use of food to liberate marginalised people.

Today, the concept of food justice has extended its reach beyond American communities and is a right fought for by thousands of people and organisations.

What are the problems with our food system? 


The way we produce, transport and consume our food is fundamentally flawed.

It is a system that profits some and leaves others without access to nutritious food and faced with hunger and forms of malnutrition.

One group who are particularly victimised by the food system are local farmers, especially those in developing countries, who struggle to compete against big agricultural corporations.

With nearly 65 percent of the world’s agricultural land occupied by large farms, local farmers are left with few opportunities to make a decent profit.

But that is far from all that is wrong with the global food system.

According to a UN Environment Programme article, there are many ways in which the system is failing humanity. Examples include:

  • the overuse of agricultural chemicals which can cause people to become sick.
  • intensive livestock and farming practices which have increased the risk of animal-borne diseases spreading to humans.
  • the release of carbon emissions and destruction of natural habitats which contribute to climate change.

Equally worrying is the growing global population which is estimated to rise to 10 billion by 2050.

With more people comes a greater demand for food and a subsequently greater divide between those who can afford a nutritious diet and those who cannot.

This is an issue raised by Robert Biel in his book, Sustainable Food Systems, who stresses that the way we produce food is not ecologically sustainable and will lead to a lack of it to go around.

Biel also explains that food insecurity derives from problems with distribution as much as it does from production.

Concurring with the concept of food justice, Biel said: “The issue of access to food is by no means just a matter of technical logistics; it is, ultimately, about distributive justice: decent nutrition should be addressed not through hand-outs or largesse, but as a right.”

Some solutions to food insecurity 


As Tamar Mayer and Molly D. Anderson point out in their book, Food Insecurity: A Matter of Justice, Sovereignty, and Survival, every country has populations who suffer from food insecurity, no matter how wealthy the nation is.

Due to it being an integrated problem, food insecurity can only really be resolved with a complete restructuring of the global food system – an unlikely outcome for the near future at least.

However, there are measures which can be undertaken to help those living in food insecurity.

Good examples of such actions include improving trade policies to provide local farmers with more opportunities to sell their produce and tackling food waste in developed countries.

The UK is a prime suspect of the latter, wasting two million tonnes of edible food a year – a disgrace when you consider this discarded, fresh food could make 1.3 billion meals and help feed the 1 in 10 people in the UK who can barely afford to eat.

Addressing climate change is also another major way of tackling food insecurity.

Pests, disease, floods and droughts are all extremely detrimental to food cultivation and all have been predicted to increase with the changing climate, affecting farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia the most.

Are your food shops costing you a pretty penny? 


There are multiple factors which are causing your food bills to go through the roof.

Regardless of the cause, read our blog on five handy methods to help you cut your weekly shopping cost.