Por Claire Katnik
There are many problems with our food system. Marginalized communities are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to food access and growing. These groups are often located in food deserts, where there are no grocery stores in their area; or there are no healthy food options, making the only choice fast food restaurants or liquor stores (Finley 2013). These communities are facing these problems due to structural racism. In order to move forward and get justice for these communities, we cannot just say that people should be growing their own food and everything will be better. Firstly, we have to realize that many people do not have the time to take care of a garden or do not have the space to even have one. As Karen Washington said in a Civil Eats article, “we need to address the structural, industrial, and environmental determinants that reinforce racism in our society” (Washington 2020). We cannot solve this issue without looking at the main issue that is causing it.
Structural racism is in every structure we have in this country. It is affecting people’s lives every single day. Structural racism is not just huge, blatant acts of racism, it is also things that go unnoticed to most people who are not being affected. This issue is so ingrained in our society and politics that it will take a long time to fix and mend the wrongs that have been done. Especially in the case of food, communities of color have been struggling for so long now and our government just watches it happen in so many cases. We need to start educating ourselves and people on how the food system needs to be reformed.
One way we can help this problem is by legislation. Politicians in our local communities should be the ones creating legislation in order to combat this structural food issue. Implementing community gardens is one great way to start. As Sarah Portnoy states in her book, Food, Health and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, community gardens are “… improving nutrition, increasing food security and physical activity, improving mental health, and creating stronger community relationships” (Portnoy). These impacts are very powerful for communities. A few simple changes will have a lasting effect, but we have to start somewhere and it has to happen soon. Local governments should be putting in more grocery stores in food deserts, as well as community gardens.
As we saw when we went to 24th Street Elementary (although it is closed right now), community gardens can make a huge impact on the community. Even for the elementary school children, having a place outside that can also be used as a “classroom” is freeing and also educating. Although having this garden is a lot of maintenance; the garden teachers showed us how much of a positive effect that this garden has on the children. Not only are the young children learning about healthy foods, responsibility, the environment, and how to garden, so are their parents. The teachers said that when the kids are taught recipes, they share them with their parents and then will remake it at home. This is such a positive cycle that should be implemented in all schools in Los Angeles. Overall, we can see the benefits of having a garden, but greater change will have to be made in order to fight back against structural racism.
24th Street Elementary: Community Garden Day. Garden School Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://gardenschoolfoundation.org/events-list/24th-street-elementary-community-garden-day
Portnoy, S. (2017). Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles Ch.7, “Urban Agriculture”.
Washington, K. (2020, July 16). Op-ed: How urban agriculture can fight racism in the food system. Civil Eats. https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/