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News Archive

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News Archive

A collection of news, op-eds, and public literature on COVID-19 in the food system as well as equity and justice by people across the globe organized by theme. We acknowledge that many of these articles can fit into various themes. In categorizing the articles, we try to identify the most salient theme emerging from the article and we place the article in that group. Some articles that were particularly difficult to categorize may appear under more than one thematic heading.

If you have articles to suggest for our archive or weekly digest, please email Garland Mason at garlandm@vt.edu.   

COVID-19 and the Food System

Op-ed: We Can Build a Better Food System Through Mutual Aid by Antonio Roman-Alcalá (June 26, 2020). According to this article, mutual aid could be crucial to developing a more just and equitable food system. Here, Roman-Alcalá describes mutual aid as ‘inherently politicized,’ grassroots, and interested in long term solutions over short term fixes. As Roman-Alcalá put it, “mutual aid efforts operate from the assumption that only the fundamental transformation of society can truly meet those needs, and aid is mobilized in service of that larger goal” (n.p). Here, mutual aid is described as establishing “reciprocal relations of solidarity” (n.p.). Additionally, in this article, Roman-Alcalá provides examples of successful mutual aid projects related to the food system and the ways that mutual aid can help construct a more sustainable, just and equitable food system if it is able to resist bureaucratization or usurpation by dominant charity organizations.

If You Still Don't Get Why COVID-19 Hit Black People Harder, Read This by Amanda Balagur (June 20, 2020). This is a story from Dr. Jessica B. Harris, a writer and culinary historian, as told to journalist Amanda Balagur. In it, Harris explains, in detail, the ways that three comorbidities (asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure) are caused by systemic injustices. In doing so, she effectively links heightened coronavirus morbidity and mortality in Black communities to systemic racism. In this interview, Harris also discusses activism and cautions against ‘performative activism,’ she describes the reflective pause that coronavirus has forced us all to take, and she talks about having gratitude for both essential workers and for enslaved ancestors and about the ‘original sin’ that is shared across the nations of the Americas and the civil unrest that exists because of it. This interview is broad in scope and sheds light on the systemic violence that causes coronavirus to wreak havoc in Black communities in profound way.

Unequally vulnerable: a food justice approach to racial disparities in COVID-19 cases by Alison Hope Alkon et al. (2020). In this article, Alkon and colleagues describe the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in communities of color from a food justice lens. They relate the common claim that underlying health conditions are responsible for the increased infection and death rates among people of color to racial capitalism which determines how people access food and what foods they access. The authors briefly examine the structural conditions that affect food consumption and in addition to looking at diet disparities due to racial capitalism, they also point to disparities and injustices in labor conditions due to the same that may have an impact on coronavirus cases and outcomes

The Case for Letting the Restaurant Industry Die by Helen Rosner (May 22, 2020). This article features an interview with Tunde Wey, a chef and activist artist based in New Orleans who holds a “radical vision of a more equitable culinary world” (n.p). In the interview, Wey answers questions about his views on the restaurant industry, its shortcomings, and its potential to rise from the coronavirus crisis with renewed modicum of social and economic justice. In the interview, Wey discusses his activism and his views on the restaurant industry, as well as a vision for a more just food service industry that more adequately addresses the structural inequalities it is premised upon.

In the Face of COVID-19, State Legislators Push for Federal Support of Local Food Systems by Lisa Held (May 18, 2020). Here, Held discusses the work of the State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) agriculture coalition. The coalition is oriented toward “advancing state-level policies that strengthen small farms and local food economies” (n.p.) She notes a recent letter the legislators wrote to urge the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to prioritize relief for small and mid-sized farms via the CARES Act. In this article, the author catches up with five legislators in the SiX network to learn about their work in strengthening local food systems.

People of Color are at Greater Risk of COVID-19. Systemic Racism in the Food System Plays a Role by Nadra Nittle May 5, 2020. Nittle explains how systemic racism is intertwined with the racialized morbidity and mortality rates of coronavirus. According to the article, data shows that Black people make up roughly 34 percent of coronavirus deaths despite representing only 13.4 percent of the population. This article discusses social determinants of health, including injustices in the food system and explores the way food, class, and race intersect in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus Is Creating a Food Security Crisis in Indian Country by The Civil Eats Editors  Interviewees describe the ways centuries of oppression have left the Navajo Nation with severely limited resources, including many households without running water or electricity. The limited resources not only make lockdown conditions significantly more challenging, but also mean that the virus is taking hold in these communities more easily with a higher mortality rate with Navajo Nation’s coronavirus per capita mortality rate coming in just after New York and New Jersey’s. 

The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing by Erica Chenoweth et al. April 20, 2020. The authors of this article have compiled an extensive list of expressions of solidarity and activism. They credit the pandemic as a generative force for the creation of new tools and strategies that citizens may use to demonstrate discontent and lobby for change. 

Southpaw: Thrown a curve, collective stands in by Matt Dhillon April 19, 2020. This article from the Roanoke Times features a new local group calling themselves the Future Economy Collective. The group is dedicating themselves to mutual aid and community building. In the article, the group’s organizers thoughtfully reflect on the need for this kind of initiative and the state of the U.S. economic and social structures.

Code Switch podcast episode Why The Coronavirus Is Hitting Black Communities Hardest April 10, 2020 In this podcast, Marry Harris, host of Slate’s daily news podcast ‘What’s Next’ speaks with healthcare reporter Akilah Johnson to learn about the reasons why black Americans are being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and why referring to COVID-19 as a “great equalizer” is, in fact, fallacious.

Coronavirus and Human Value by Angela Glover Blackwell and Michael McAfee Here Blackwell and McAfee call out the existence of a ‘hierarchy of human value’ premised upon legacies of enslavement, genocide, and colonization. Using examples from the coronavirus response, they tie this hierarchy of human value to our current moment to show the destruction caused by valuing certain groups over others.

Wash Your Hands by Dori Midnight A poem by a self-described community-based intuitive healer, Dori Midnight. Midnight unpacks the compassion in a simple act of this time: that of washing our hands.

Why Don’t We Know Who the Coronavirus Victims Are? By Dr. Ibram X. Kendi April 1, 2020. In this article, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi draws upon accounts of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 as a metaphor for coronavirus. This article was a precursor to more recent concerns over racial data that have emerged since Kendi’s article was published (for example here, here, and here)—as such, it’s certainly worth a look.

Haymarket Books Online Teach-In: How to Beat Coronavirus Capitalism with Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and a musical performance by Lia Rose March 26, 2020. In this hour-and-thirty minute teach-in, three authors, Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor discuss the ‘pandemic of capitalism’ given the rampant ‘coronavirus illness.’ The authors also spend significant time discussing resistance to coronavirus capitalism and the challenges imposed by the need for physical distance, as well as the political and social distance that is constraining social movements. 

Social Justice in a time of Social Distancing from the Design Studio for Social Intervention by Kenneth Bailey and Lori Lobenstine March 13, 2020. This article by Kenneth Bailey and Lori Lobenstine describes the way that coronavirus is exacerbating our proclivity to individualism. This timely article provides insight into ‘the current arrangements of individuality’ as well as into what we might do to resist the impulse to individuate and to remake coronavirus as a call for collective action and collective healing.

Beyond Big Meat by Ted Genoways August 24, 2020. This article highlights the disruptions in the American food production system that result from the Covid-19 pandemic. Focusing on meat production, Genoways highlights the impossible-to- navigate bottleneck caused by slow-downs or closures at meat packing plants leading to mass euthanization of livestock. The article highlights the evolution of large-scale meat production, the backlash against it, as well as its vulnerabilities and fragility in the face of a global pandemic. Genoways concludes his article by underscoring the need for a massive meat production reform in the United States and by imagining what that type of innovation could entail.

Virginia Cooperative Extension helps get food from the field to the table during COVID-19 by Devon Johnson and Max Esterhuizen August 12, 2020. Here, the work of our very own Eric Bendfeldt, Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation Associate Director, Kim Niewolny, Center Director, and French Price, Center Fellow is featured. This article highlights the Virginia MarketMaker website, “a multistate effort to connect growers with the suppliers and markets they need to successfully produce and sell crops” (n.p.) as well as the work of the Center amidst the pandemic. Read this article to learn more about the our team’s efforts to improve and strengthen the Virginia food system!

The lives upended around a $20 cheeseburger by Jessica Contrera (July 7, 2020). This fascinating article offers a broad tour of the food system by following the origins of a $20 burger from the conception of the steer in Kansas to a burger on the dining room table of the man that ordered it in Washington D.C. Along the way, we’re introduced to all of the food systems workers who work on the ranches, in the meatpacking plant, for the meat distributor, in the restaurant where the burger is assembled, and for the delivery app that gets the burger to the consumer. Contrera takes space to describe the human and financial impacts of the pandemic along every step of the way. This is a captivating look at the function and dysfunction of our food system in light of the coronavirus pandemic and is not to be missed!

As School Meal Programs Go Broke, a Renewed Call for Universal Free Lunch by Lisa Held (June 29, 2020). In this article, Held discusses the difficulty school districts face in providing meals to students both while they’ve stayed home in the spring and summer and moving forward into the fall, whether they’ll be in school or staying home. This article discusses the nuances and financial dysfunctionalities of school nutrition programs and describes the reasons why solvency has become exceedingly difficult for school food programs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In the article, Held suggests policy solutions that could help schools meet demand and would help to tackle some of the systemic inequities that make financial solvency so elusive for school nutrition programs.

Food Service Workers Are on the Brink of a Mental Health Crisis. These Efforts are Helping. By Kayla Stewart
 
(May 26, 2020). This article discusses the worrisome realities for many food service workers facing mental health crisis. Stewart artfully weaves firsthand stories with data that show that bar and restaurant workers are especially at risk for mental illness including, and especially, substance use disorder. Stewart also notes the barriers that exist to accessing care. This article shares stories of food service workers as well as the story of a program that exists to help food service workers access care and support one another.

Table For None: Tom Colicchio Explains What Restaurants Need To Survive from Fresh Air (interview by Terri Gross). May 7, 2020. In this episode of Fresh Air with Terri Gross, restauranteur Tom Colicchio breaks down the possibilities for the survival of restaurants amid this pandemic. He describes a vision of restaurants as community food sites and explains the potential role of restaurants in averting the impending crises in the food supply chain. He also discusses the increasing food waste resulting from the pandemic, as well as the impact of coronavirus on farmers.

A Wendy’s With No Burgers as Meat Production Is Hit by David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery May 5, 2020. Yaffe-Bellany and Corkery discuss the ways the meat industry’s production shutdown is beginning to impact consumers. They note the shortage will likely peak around Memorial Day and that the shortages consumers are seeing now are just the beginning of a bigger problem. 

Op-Ed: Everything wrong with our food system has been made worse by the pandemic by Margot J. Pollans May 4, 2020. In her op-ed, Pollans points out several ‘cruel ironies’ exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Pollans emphasizes the existence of a false dichotomy between the interests of food consumers and food systems workers.  She also notes the irony of the specific breakdowns in the supply chains for example “While farmers dump produce that was destined for restaurants and schools, food banks fight to keep up with increased need” (n.p.). 

Trump Declares Meat Supply ‘Critical,’ Aiming to Reopen Plants by Ana Swanson and David Yaffe-Bellany. April 28, 2020. In this article from the New York Times, the authors describe Trump’s order to reopen or keep open meat processing plants to stem an impending protein shortage in the United States.

Critical Food and Farm Rules Have Been Rolled Back Amid Pandemic by Gosia Wozniacka April 14, 2020. This article by Gosia Wozniacka is alarming. In it, she points out the coronavirus-induced shortfalls in state and federal food safety assurances. Wozniacka also details the environmental regulations that have been relaxed during the pandemic and the ways the food industry might take nefarious advantage of the lapse.

Coronavirus Exposes Our Food System's Crisis from Food & Water Watch by Krissy Kasserman April 2, 2020. Food & Water Watch reveals the concerning consolidation of big agriculture and the government’s affinity for protecting and upholding the success of industry giants.

How COVID-19 may disrupt food supply chains in developing countries by Tom Reardon, Marc Bellemare and David Zilberman February 2, 2020. This  article examines the relationship between economic development, urbanization, and globalization and other factors on the strength and resilience of food supply chains, with particular emphasis on projected disparities within COVID-19 responses and lockdowns between poor and rich countries.

Finding Strength in Sofrito in Puerto Rico by Von Diaz October 26, 2020. Here, Diaz discusses life in Puerto Rico during the annual hurricane season, made worse by climate change, and amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In this article, Diaz notes Puerto Rico’s poverty rate (the highest in the nation) and the toll the coronavirus has taken on the island, and in particular, on the food security of its residents. Diaz extolls the virtues of the island’s most famous dishes and notes their origins in the traditional foodways of Spanish, African and Indigenous peoples. The article also covers the food relief efforts being spearheaded by famous chef, Jose Andrés and others. This thorough article covers themes of food security, food sovereignty and resilience in Puerto Rico and is an uplifting read. 

Food Insecurity in the U.S. by the Numbers by Christianna Silva September 27, 2020. Here, we learn about the pandemic’s influence on food insecurity in the U.S. The article breaks down food insecurity by the numbers, noting that one in four families have experienced food insecurity this year and that children and Black families are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. The article covers SNAP benefits during the pandemic and also points to rising food insecurity globally as a result of the pandemic. This is a thorough article that highlights the rise of food insecurity resulting from COVID-19 and also links to several other relevant articles that tell more personal stories about hunger and the pandemic.

Why Giving Food Stamps to the Rich Is Not a Terrible Idea by Ginia Bellafante September 18, 2020. In this article, Bellafante covers the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) going to all families with children who attend public schools in New York City. According to the author, “pandemic EBT benefit is the most progressive measure to come out of recovery efforts” (n.p.). She explains the nature of the benefit and why it goes to wealthy families, as well as to families that desperately need it. She also encourages wealthy families to spend the benefit funds and then donate the same amount to food pantries to further bolster food security in the city. In a quote from Joel Berg, chief executive of Hunger Free America, we see that “The important message here is that government has a far greater capacity to help than charity” (n.p.). This article underscores the importance of government assistance and the strength of government programs in combating food insecurity.

Cuba’s Economy Was Hurting. The Pandemic Brought a Food Crisis. by Ed Augustin & Frances Robles September 20, 2020. This article covers food insecurity and coronavirus response in Cuba. The authors discuss the hit Cuba has taken as the U.S. government has imposed stricter sanctions on the country’s trade and as coronavirus has blocked tourists from entering Cuba. The article details the ways the Cuban government’s response to controlling the coronavirus pandemic within its borders has been largely effective but has been coupled with increased food insecurity and long lines for expensive food sold in dollars, a currency that Cubans do not earn and is accessible only to those with close contacts abroad. The authors also explain the ways this has contributed to increasing income inequality in the country. This is an important read about a country that has been successful in controlling the virus but where the virus has put its economy into a tailspin.

PHOTOS: Brazilian Farmers Hatch a Plan to Send Healthy Food to The Favelas by Patrícia Monteiro (May 24, 2020). In this photo essay Monteiro chronicles the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on Brazil’s favelas, poor urban neighborhoods that are typically densely populated and under-resourced. Monteiro captured images of food deliveries in favelas where hunger is a mounting threat alongside COVID-19. This article captures the work of local farmers who had lost their markets as a result of the pandemic and who are rerouting their produce to serve people living in the favelas. The deliveries are subsidized by wealthier customers who purchased shares in community supported agriculture.

The Farm to Food Bank Movement Aims to Rescue Small-Scale Farming and Feed the Hungry by Lynne Curry (May 14, 2020). In her article, Curry highlights projects designed to link small farmers with food banks. She describes the current failures in the conventional food system and details the logistics of the connections. She also touches on established farm-to-food bank programs that predate the pandemic and describes what efforts might look like moving forward.

As Hunger Spreads with Pandemic, Government Takes Timid Steps by Lola Fadulu (May 13, 2020). Fadulu explains the ‘too little, too late’ approach of the U.S. government in helping to curb increasing rates of hunger. She describes the government’s foot dragging on addressing hunger, noting that it has failed to expand school meal programs and SNAP benefits in substantial enough ways to avoid furthering the crisis. She also warns that many of the measures taken have been temporary and are set to expire next month, inviting the potential for an exponential increase in hunger. 

U.N. Warns Number Of People Starving To Death Could Double Amid Pandemic by H.J. Mai May 5, 2020. This article recounts the U.N. humanitarian chief’s warning that coronavirus’s economic toll could result in double the hunger and hunger-related deaths this year. The humanitarian chief calls for increased cooperation and increased aid from wealthy nations, noting that without this, the situation could turn dire.

COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems: Symptoms, causes, and potential solutions Communiqué by IPES-Food April 2020. This communiqué from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems highlights the ways that our industrial food system has contributed to the existence of COVID-19 (i.e. through the destruction of nature) and the ways the pandemic is exposing the weaknesses inherent to the system (e.g. food shortages and supply chain issues).

‘Instead of Coronavirus, the Hunger Will Kill Us.’ A Global Food Crisis Looms by Abdi Latif Dahir April 22, 2020. This article points out the strain imposed by coronavirus on countries already in crisis. Dahir cites a recent UN report that projects that coronavirus threatens over a quarter of a billion people with starvation if action is not taken to stop this humanitarian crisis.

What More States Allowing SNAP Recipients to Buy Food Online Means for Food Security by Nicole Rasul April 13, 2020. This article  highlights the difficulties SNAP recipients face in the current crisis because, in most states, SNAP funds can only be redeemed in person and can’t be used online. According to the article, an increasing number of states are joining a Department of Agriculture pilot program that will allow recipients to use SNAP dollars online in an effort to alleviate some of the stressors associated with purchasing food during this pandemic. 

Ensuring Food Security in the Era of COVID-19 by Thanawat Tiensin, Agnes Kalibata, and Martin Cole April 1, 2020. Explores the possibility of pandemic-related food crises and the potential of much higher rates of food insecurity, similar to those of the Great Recession.

Feeding Low-Income Children during the Covid-19 Pandemic by Caroline G. Dunn, et al. March 30, 2020. This article describes the benefits of school feeding programs to underscore the gravity of their loss as schools stay closed during the pandemic. The authors offer strategies that school districts could use to ensure children are well fed during the crisis and offer specific policy guidelines for policymakers to make feeding programs possible as the pandemic continues.

Supporting Equitable Food Access During National Emergencies—The Promise of Online Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery Services by Pasquale E. Rummo, PhD, MPHMarie A. Bragg, PhDStella S. Yi, PhD, MPH March 27, 2020. The authors of this article describe the ways that food access is threatened during crises like the coronavirus pandemic, they detail the food access solutions already underway from public and private sectors, and they offer a list of public and private sector strategies that could serve to reduce food inequities during emergencies.

For a Daughter of Immigrants, American Soil Offers Plenty to Forage by Vanessa Hua November 11, 2020. In this essay, Hua discusses the significance of foraging for food amidst the pandemic through beautiful prose. Hua places the practice in historical context and explains its contemporary role in society. As Hua put it, “Foraging felt like empowerment and self-sufficiency — a form of resourceful thrift familiar to me as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and a small measure of control when so much has felt out of control” (n.p.). This is a wonderful story of one family’s experience with foraging for food and is well worth reading.

Post-coronavirus, how can we achieve food justice? By Sarah Wild September 15, 2020. In this blog post from Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine, Wild recounts conversations with five food systems experts about the top priority for achieving food justice. Their answers include reflections on how coronavirus “shocked the food system” and the need for a more resilient food system that can withstand future shocks, the role of government in the creation of a just food system, the need to give food producers more power and agency, consumers’ responsibility in producing and procuring healthy food in more localized systems, and the affordability of healthy food juxtaposed with the need to pay food producers a living wage. This broad ranging piece highlights the thoughts of food systems experts across the US and Europe and promotes deep thought on what we would need to create a just food system moving forward. 

COVID-19 Relief Package Must Recognize Food Is Fundamental by Allison Johnson & Yvette Cabrera September 15, 2020. In this piece, Johnson and Cabrera detail the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has destabilized our food system, from production to consumption by jeopardizing farmworker safety and by exacerbating conditions contributing to food insecurity. The authors admonish political figures who have done little to address the dire situation and recommend increasing and adding flexibility to SNAP benefits to benefit those experiencing food insecurity—“[building] on what works,” as the authors say. Further, the authors argue that legislators must pass the Food Supply Protection Act, describing how and why doing so would protect workers. They detail what has and has not been done in Washington and urge Congress to pay attention and act appropriately to combat food security and build food justice in meaningful and effective ways. 

Organic Food as a Human Right: Rio de Janeiro Favelas Organize for Food Sovereignty During Covid-19 by Sophie-Anne Monplaisir July 20, 2020. In this article, Monplaisir provides a brief overview of Brazilian agriculture and the limited access poor Brazilians have to fresh produce and unprocessed or minimally processed foods. She dives into two projects that have sought to reverse this by promoting food security, education, agroecology and food sovereignty in Rio’s favelas in light of COVID-19. Activists and community organizers quoted in the article provide further insight into the plight of those that live in Rio’s favelas in accessing fresh and healthy produce and the disconnect between Brazil’s booming agriculture industry and the food security of its citizens. This article provides insight into innovative projects emerging from the favelas and is worth a look!

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Puerto Rico’s Food Sovereignty by Luis Alexis Rodríguez- Cruz n.d. This piece by Luis Alexis Rodriguez-Cruz emphasizes the impact of COVID-19 on Puerto Rican farmers and fisherfolks. Rodriguez-Cruz highlights the precarity of Puerto Rican supply chains as food is funneled through a single port and the supply chain itself is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, as are farmers and fisherfolks. Here, Rodriguez-Cruz identifies the difficulties and inequities Puerto Rican farmers and fisherfolks face and asks the reader to imagine a Puerto Rican food sovereignty that would protect the local supply chain and adequately value local production.

‘The sun is hot and you can’t breathe in a mask’ - life as an undocumented farmworker by Gabriel Thompson May 28, 2020. This article offers a firsthand account of what it’s like to be an undocumented farmworker working in the United States during the coronavirus crisis. In it, a farmworker, given the pseudonym Roberto Valdez, describes the experience of trying to protect himself from coronavirus as he harvests crops in the desert southwest. This article highlights the precarities and injustices farmworkers face, as well as the pride they feel as they fulfill the duties of their vital work.

Op-ed: Migrant Farmworkers, Native Ranchers in Border States Hit Hardest by COVID-19 by Gary Nabhan May 22, 2020Here, Nabhan details the working and living conditions that make migrant farmworkers and Native ranchers particularly susceptible to COVID-19. He reminds us that “Navajo Nation farming, herding, and ranching families are being hit by COVID-19 at rates double their contribution to the overall population in the Southwest” (n.p.) and explains the language barriers and other obstacles that migrant farmworkers face in protecting themselves and accessing care if they do fall ill. In his article, Nabhan sets this tragic scene with compassionate prose, making this thoughtful and well-researched article a must-read.

‘Our Food System Is Very Much Modeled on Plantation Economics,’ a CounterSpin interview with Ricardo Salvador on the coronavirus food crisis (interview by Janine Jackson) May 13, 2020. In this interview with Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Salvador and Jackson discuss the ways the food system is responding to the current crisis (i.e. by dumping milk and plowing vegetables under). Salvador explains the way the food system is set up and how it came to be that food would be wasted to this degree. They also discuss the vulnerable status of food workers during this time and draw connections between our contemporary food system and legacies of plantation agriculture. Last, the interview closes with a call to action toward food systems reform.

The Sickness in Our Food Supply by Michael Pollan May 12, 2020. In this piece, Pollan discusses the vulnerabilities and inequities inherent to our industrialized food system. He explains the disconnect between retail and institutional food markets and details the relevant history of the American food system that has contributed to the current reality. He also reveals the injustices faced by food systems workers deemed ‘essential’ during this time. He connects the present disruptions to diet and notes the politicization of our plates. Pollan ties many pieces of the current crisis together to form a compelling plea for food systems reform.

Sowing Seeds of Hope During COVID-19 by Bonnie Newman Davis April 28, 2020. This article follows the work of Duron Chavis, a Richmond food justice advocate who has received national recognition for his efforts. After losing his job at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden due to COVID-19, Chavis immediately devoted himself to grassroots activism launching a Facebook fundraiser to support Resiliency Gardens. This article describes Chavis’s work and fundraising efforts, shares his story, and includes a poem written by Chavis.

‘Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste’: The Covid-19 pandemic and the opportunity for food sovereignty by Walden Bello April, 2020. In this paper, Bello highlights how the food systems chaos spurred by the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the precariousness of and danger inherent to the global industrial food and agriculture complex. Bello’s work leads to the recommendation that this crisis should inspire a “strategic transformation of the global food production system along lines designed to bring about food self-sufficiency and food sovereignty” (p. 3). 

The farmworkers putting food on America's tables are facing their own coronavirus crisis by Catherine E. Shoichet April 11, 2020. CNN covered the unique challenges farmworkers face during the pandemic. With direct quotes from farmworkers and farmworker organizers and advocates, this article details lapses in safety and farmworker protections, as well as the seeming inevitability of a devastating outbreak of COVID-19 among farmworker communities.  

The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now by Katie Brimm April 2, 2020. Brimm chronicles the rise of ‘victory gardening’ in the US in response to coronavirus. She gains insight from seed suppliers, food systems educators, and food sovereignty activists to weave together a narrative that demonstrates the heft of the moment. 

Farmworkers Are in the Coronavirus Crosshairs by Gosia Wozniacka March 25, 2020. Wozniacka describes the difficulties farmworkers face in accessing information about coronavirus and protecting themselves from getting sick. As the title suggests, this article examines the myriad complicating factors that make life during this pandemic particularly vulnerable for farmworkers.

Forged in the Fire: Lessons for the Current Crisis by Highland Center co-executive directors Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Allyn Maxfield-Steele April 3, 2020. This piece relates the lessons learned from last year’s devastating arson attack on the Highlander Center main office to the current COVID-19 crisis. 

What Does Agriculture Have to do With Zoonotic Diseases? By Lindsay Campbell October 19, 2020. Zoonotic diseases are those that can be passed between animals and humans. This article breaks down the question of agriculture’s role in the proliferation and transmission of zoonotic diseases. Here we learn about the role of deforestation for agricultural land use and the incidence of pandemics like COVID-19. The author also writes of the role of farms located near forests where wild and domesticated animals may mix in increasing the incidence of zoonotic disease transmission. Intensive agriculture where animals are kept in cramped conditions and the overuse of antibiotics are also cited as a cause.

A Deep Divide on COVID, and Masks, in Farm Country by Jenny Splitter October 5, 2020. This article discusses the politicization of COVID-19 in agricultural communities that results in division and polarization. The author builds on stories from a rural agriculture teacher, a nurse with AgriSafe (a national agricultural health organization), a therapist and researcher on farmer mental health and a few farmers to demonstrate the prevalence of anti-mask sentiments and general distrust in public health information that pervade in farm country. Here, we learn about coronavirus surges in rural areas and rural communities’ divided response to the spiking caseload. We also hear from rural agricultural community members who feel the isolation imposed by social distancing measures is worse than the effects of the virus itself. This article captures nuance and emotion and is absolutely worth reading to understand more about the political divide in this country.

Virus’s unseen hot zone: The American farm by Laura Reiley and Ruth Reinhard September 24, 2020. This article describes the ways the large-scale growers who hire migrant farmworkers “flouted public health guidelines to limit testing and obscure coronavirus outbreaks” (n.p.). The article describes a sort of cover-up scheme on the part of growers to hide the reality that coronavirus cases were exploding as a result of their production systems and the inability of workers to take time off if they are sick and the impossibility of social distancing on many farms. According to the article, growers did this by encouraging workers to hide positive diagnoses and by limiting access to testing. This article highlights the lack of worker protections and the failure of growers to act in accordance with public health guidelines to curb the spread of the virus. 

The Pandemic Is Exposing the Rotten Core of Our Industrial Food System by Joseph Bullington August 14, 2020. Here’s another article on the fragility of the industrial food system and the resurgence of local foodways amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Though we’ve seen a few articles like it, we wanted to share this one because of its vivid depiction of the shortcomings of industrial agriculture and the possibilities embedded within local food systems. As the author wrote, “As the pandemic has shaken the rickety scaffolding of industrial agriculture, it has woken many of us to the fragility of this system — and our dependence on it” (n.p.). As a counterpoint, he offers examples of initiatives based in mutual aid, food sovereignty, and community organizing and with them, hope for an alternative future. If you need a small dose of optimism among the doom-and-gloom, this article is for you!

The Scramble to Pluck 24 Billion Cherries in Eight Weeks by Brooke Jarvis August 12, 2020. This is a beautifully written article that follows the cherry from farm to market with emphasis on how the supply chain has been forced to shift and adapt during the coronavirus pandemic. As the article notes, “People who had regularly been called illegal suddenly found themselves rebranded as essential” (n.p.). Jarvis underlines the essentiality of farmworkers during the coronavirus pandemic as immigration enforcement procedures were relaxed in response to the impending dual crises of the pandemic and the potential loss of farmworkers to harvest crops (due to illness, fear of infection, and immigration enforcement). Here, Jarvis recounts the stories of two cherry orchards and a single farmworker to communicate the difficulties presented by the crisis and the particularities (and vulnerabilities) of the annual cherry harvest.

In Mexico City, the coronavirus is bringing back Aztec-era ‘floating gardens’ by Amanda Gokee (July 5, 2020). Here’s an uplifting article from Grist about farmers in Mexico City who continue to use ancient farming practices to cultivate Mexico City’s chinampas or floating gardens. In this article, Gokee discusses the changes in demand that the chinamperos (chinampa farmers) are seeing due to COVID-19. Here, with quotes collected from interviews with chinamperos, we learn about the ways they are using a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model to offset their losses from the lack of restaurant and institutional sales during COVID-19. This article is a welcome pick-me-up and is worth reading to learn about a unique indigenous production style and a lesson of adaptation and resilience in the face of volatile markets and a global pandemic.

Why meatpacking plants have become coronavirus hot spots by Nicole Narea (May 19, 2020). This article explains the specific working conditions that make coronavirus so transmissible among meatpacking plant workers. According to the article, conditions that make it nearly impossible to maintain a safe social distance “create a perfect storm for coronavirus transmission” (n.p.). The author also notes the conditions outside of the workplace, such as crowded living conditions and commutes via public transit that increase the likelihood of meatpacking workers contracting the virus. As the article points out, despite the impending shortage of meat in grocery stores, “the most vulnerable members of the supply chain in terms of livelihood and health are the farmers and the factory workers, not the consumers or grocery stores” (n.p).

Op-ed: Growing an Appreciation for the Hands That Feed Us by Mas Masumoto May 6, 2020. In this piece, Masumoto reflects on the solitary nature of farming and draws on commentary from renown food systems figures to discuss the current moment. This piece features reflections and lessons from Chef José Andrés, author Michael Pollan, chef Alice Waters, and others. 

A global mask shortage may leave farmers and farm workers exposed to toxic pesticides by Melanie Bateman April 27, 2020. Farmers and farmworkers may have to forego vital protection from pesticide-induced respiratory illnesses because of the surging demand for personal protective equipement (PPE) caused by coronavirus.

The Coronavirus Pandemic is Pushing Dairy Farmers to the Brink by Siena Chrisman April 8, 2020. In this article, Chrisman describes the dairy industry as it tries to adapt and re-strategize with the market’s unanticipated expansions and contractions due to COVID-19.

Community Supported Agriculture Is Surging Amid the Pandemic by Hannah Ricker and Mara Kardas-Nelson April 9, 2020. Ricker and Kardas-Nelson recount how pandemic-fueled food anxiety is breathing life back into the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.

Five Reasons to Try Foodscaping Your Lawn (July 1, 2020)
This blogpost outlines reasons to explore foodscaping your lawn amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

With Schools Closed, Their Gardens Take on a New Role by Tove Danovitch (May 20, 2020). This article discusses the innovative strategies school gardens are using to maintain growth and productivity during this strange time. Danovitch provides some general background on school gardening and discusses the ways school gardens can be used as diverse learning sites. As the article explains, many gardens have pivoted away from planting a mix of different produce for learning and have turned instead to production gardening similar to other urban agriculture sites with the goal of giving food to local families or food pantries. 

Most Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic is Changing That by Daphne Miller (May 12, 2020). This article describes a new trend in large-scale production agriculture systems devoted mainly to corn and soy. The trend is to devote an acre or two of land to a ‘chaos garden’ by planting a mix of plants producing edible crops rather than a traditional cover crop. Typically, the fruits and vegetables harvested from the chaos garden are donated to a local food bank though some farmers sell the produce locally, contributing fresh produce to the local food system. According to the article, the popularity of chaos gardens has grown exponentially this year, likely in response to the breakdown of supply chains due to the pandemic.

Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens By Tejal Rao March 25, 2020. This article draws the parallels between World War II victory gardens and the many people taking to gardening during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Commentary: To Fight Climate Change, Learn from Our COVID-19 Response by Brooke Smith October 1, 2020. Here’s an article from a prescient seventeen-year-old resident of Floyd County, Virginia. Smith draws parallels between the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. Smith warns of the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis and the ease with which Appalachians might ignore the warning signs noting that neither has yet impacted this region as severely as it has others. She writes of the similar forms of misinformation that surround both crises and notes another similarity: “COVID-19 and climate change share a painful reality: Once the problem is evident, it’s too late for it to be solved” (n.p.). She closes with this important message: “Through the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve witnessed a disappointing truth about climate justice and any other issue that requires collective sacrifice. If attitudes in America remain the same, we don’t stand a chance. And our future is on the line” (n.p.).

Climate change and COVID-19: reinforcing Indigenous food systems by Carol Zavaleta- Cortijo et al. 2020. In this short article from the Lancet Planetary Health, scholars explore the intersection between Covid-19, climate change, and the viability of indigenous foodways. They draw on examples of indigenous responses to the pandemic from the Canadian Arctic, Uganda, and the Peruvian Amazon. The scholars describe the implications of climate change within indigenous food systems and assert that “there is a vital window of opportunity to support Indigenous populations who face the double and syndemic burden of compound and cascading socioecological hazards, such as climate change and pandemics, by prioritising the protection of key Indigenous food sources (e.g., tropical forests, Arctic ecosystems), by reinforcing and supporting the importance of Indigenous knowledge systems, by improving access to culturally safe health resources, and by and safeguarding access and rights to land and natural resources of Indigenous populations” (p. 2). This article highlights the importance of indigenous foodways and their potential for resilience if the threat of climate change is properly mitigated.

Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists by Damian Carrington April 27, 2020. Here, Carrington explains that coronavirus is likely an early indicator of more pandemics to come as humans continue to put forth policies that allow the ‘root cause’ of pandemics to proliferate: “the rampant destruction of the natural world.” Though the article doesn’t necessarily emphasize agriculture as the culprit, industrial agriculture is named as among the contributors that put humans in closer proximity to increasingly displaced animals from which zoonotic diseases originate and spread. The experts quoted note that well it may seem ‘politically expedient’ to allow for ‘business as usual’ to continue, in the long run, pandemics are costly and potentially politically ruinous. The experts emphasize the need for a ‘one health’ approach that recognized the health of all living beings to be interconnected.


Equity and Justice

The Chronic Stress of Being Black in the U.S. Makes People More Vulnerable to COVID-19 and Other Diseases by April Thames June 23, 2020. Written by a clinical neuropsychologist, this article breaks down the biological mechanisms that increase the morbidity and mortality associated with coronavirus among Black people. The author draws on medical research to explain the ways social stressors like racism and discrimination are linked to “poor health, inflammation, and premature biological aging” (n.p.) contributing to the disproportionate rates of coronavirus illness and death among Black people. The author inserts her curiosities that extend beyond clinic research and into questions of why “social inequities and injustices persist” (n.p.). This article provides a scientific explanation of the physiological impacts of racism and discrimination and may be useful in convincing those who discount the widespread impacts of racial oppression.

If You Still Don't Get Why COVID-19 Hit Black People Harder, Read This by Amanda Balagur June 20, 2020. This is a story from Dr. Jessica B. Harris, a writer and culinary historian, as told to journalist Amanda Balagur. In it, Harris explains, in detail, the ways that three comorbidities (asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure) are caused by systemic injustices. In doing so, she effectively links heightened coronavirus morbidity and mortality in Black communities to systemic racism. In this interview, Harris also discusses activism and cautions against ‘performative activism,’ she describes the reflective pause that coronavirus has forced us all to take, and she talks about having gratitude for both essential workers and for enslaved ancestors and about the ‘original sin’ that is shared across the nations of the Americas and the civil unrest that exists because of it. This interview is broad in scope and sheds light on the systemic violence that causes coronavirus to wreak havoc in Black communities in profound ways.

Unequally vulnerable: a food justice approach to racial disparities in COVID-19 cases by Alison Hope Alkon et al. 2020. In this article, Alkon and colleagues describe the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in communities of color from a food justice lens. They relate the common claim that underlying health conditions are responsible for the increased infection and death rates among people of color to racial capitalism which determines how people access food and what foods they access. The authors briefly examine the structural conditions that affect food consumption and in addition to looking at diet disparities due to racial capitalism, they also point to disparities and injustices in labor conditions due to the same that may have an impact on coronavirus cases and outcomes.

What Indian Country Remembers About Survival by Jade Begay May 11, 2020 In it, Begay who is of Diné and Tesuque Pueblo of New Mexico descent, talks about ‘blood memory’ or the “embodied remembrance passed down from generation to generation” (n.p.) among Native Americans. She describes the anxiety and distrust inscribed by their ancestral trauma and the need to ‘indigenize’ community care in the face of COVID-19. She discusses the ways this community care might look in Native communities and poses questions communities might ask themselves to ensure their own care and wellbeing. Begay also describes the disparities that make Native communities particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and its associated economic turmoil. The article references and provides examples from a few different indigenous groups across the western United States. This is an important topic and the beautiful writing in this article is not to be missed!

People of Color are at Greater Risk of COVID-19. Systemic Racism in the Food System Plays a Role by Nadra Nittle May 5, 2020. Here, Nittle explains how systemic racism is intertwined with the racialized morbidity and mortality rates of coronavirus. According to the article, data shows that Black people make up roughly 34 percent of coronavirus deaths despite representing only 13.4 percent of the population. This article discusses social determinants of health, including injustices in the food system and explores the way food, class, and race intersect in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Code Switch podcast episode Why The Coronavirus Is Hitting Black Communities Hardest April 10, 2020. In this podcast, Marry Harris, host of Slate’s daily news podcast ‘What’s Next’ speaks with healthcare reporter Akilah Johnson to learn about the reasons why black Americans are being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and why referring to COVID-19 as a “great equalizer” is, in fact, fallacious.

Coronavirus and Human Value by Angela Glover Blackwell and Michael McAfee. n.d. Here Blackwell and McAfee call out the existence of a ‘hierarchy of human value’ premised upon legacies of enslavement, genocide, and colonization. Using examples from the coronavirus response, they tie this hierarchy of human value to our current moment to show the destruction caused by valuing certain groups over others. In closing their piece, the authors call for governments to protect and serve the most marginalized among us and prioritize their care, noting that valuing all groups equally—and, in doing so, prioritizing and treating those with greatest disadvantage and need—will ultimately go further to protect everyone from the virus.

Research Brief: Identifying and Countering White Supremacy Culture in Food Systems by Alison Conrad, MPP September, 2020. This research brief shares insight into research driven by the question: “How does white supremacy culture play out in the food insecurity and food access space in the United States?” (p. 1). The brief encourages readers to “understand how white supremacy culture narratives function to center whiteness across the food system” (p. 1). Here, the author provides definitions for key terms such as ‘whiteness,’ ‘white supremacy culture,’ and ‘racial equity.’ She examines the narratives that undergird these themes: individualism, neoliberalism, paternalism, and universalism and follows and unpacks white supremacy culture narratives in the food system, providing examples of each before introducing strategies to adopt a more antiracist stance in food systems practice and food policy work. This is an important brief and is not to be missed!

For Black Jam Makers, the Power Is in Preserving by Kim Severson  August 18, 2020. This is a great article about the White supremacy embedded within the craft food movement. The article reflects on the ways the craft food movement centers Whiteness to the exclusion of people of color. By profiling craft food makers of color and including excerpts of interviews with them, the article highlights the ways in which people of color are shut out of the craft food movement and the boundary breaking work craft food makers are engaged in. The article also examines the history of craft food and Black food ways, highlighting where they intersect and where they have diverged historically and contemporarily.

Should the Dietary Guidelines Help Fight Systemic Racism? By Gosia Wozniacka July 28, 2020. In her latest article for Civil Eats, Wozniacka tackles the topic of the new federal dietary guidelines for 2020-2025 set to be published later this year. She covers the work of advocates for more inclusive guidelines who call for a more significant evolution from the previous set of guidelines, demanding that the new guidelines “address the systemic impacts of racism on nutrition, including food insecurity, the lack of access to healthy foods, and the needs of people with chronic diseases” (n.p.) and that they be culturally relevant for a diverse spectrum of audiences. The article also provides examples of how the federal government could do more to adapt the guidelines to accommodate a BIPOC audience.

Op-ed: Overthrowing the Food System’s Plantation Paradigm by Ashanté Reese and Randolph Carr June 19, 2020. In this incredibly powerful article, Reese and Carr discuss prison farms as contemporary forms of plantation geography and they provide an overview of abolitionist theory, which according to the authors “invites a critical-historical awareness of unfreedom and a creative prescription toward the possibilities of freedom” (n.p). Here, the authors map the connections between concentrations of power in police forces and prisons and the injustices within the food system. They advocate for a more just food system by calling on the abolition of prison farms noting that abolition means halting the continual transformation of plantation geographies entirely by building a food system defined by justice and self-determination.

Michael Twitty: Hunger Is A Form Of Violence We Must Address by Amanda Balagur June 15, 2020. Here’s an interview with Michael Twitty in which he discusses African diaspora food and the politics of its foodways, hunger in Black and Brown communities and the ways it manifests as social violence, as well as the widespread, long term impacts of food insecurity in Black, Brown and poor White communities. He advocates for food education and for people to grow their own food. Twitty also discusses activism and collective action. This is a powerful interview with a Black food icon and is not to be missed!

Race and Food are Intertwined. Here’s How We Can Do Better by Hannah Wallace (October 20, 2017). This article captures elements of a speech given by Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and director of UCS’s Food and Environment Program. In it, Salvador offers a reminder of the insidious nature of the institutional racism pervasive within our food system and asks, “Is it possible to create a new food system that does not rely on exploitation?” (n.p.). Salvador makes the case for food systems reform by recounting several committed actions that we must take to create change. These committed actions appear in a bulleted list in this article and are absolutely worth reviewing, along with the entire message. This piece, though it’s from 2017, is a definite must-read for our current political climate.

 

Returning the ‘three sisters’ – corn, beans and squash – to Native American farms nourishes people, land and cultures by Christina Gish Hill November 20, 2020. This article emerged from a question the author had about “why Native farming practices had declined and what benefits could emerge from bringing them back” (n.p.). The article highlights Indigenous agriculture, the displacement and disenfranchisement that led to the loss of Native agriculture, and projects designed to revive Indigenous seeds and agricultural practices. 

At the Nation’s Largest Student Farm Organization, a Reckoning on Race by Leah Douglas September 8, 2020. Here’s a highly nuanced article that provides insight into legacies of racism within the National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. The article provides accounts of the experiences of members of color within the organization and describes a few of the organization’s racial blunders and its attempts to right them. Douglas also gives a comprehensive picture of the history of the organization as well as its merger with New Farmers of America, its Black counterpart under separate-but-equal. This is an important article on a major agricultural organization’s continued privileging of Whiteness, as well as its attempts to remain relevant and to navigate a complex political climate.

Fire Drill by Gilda Di Carli August 19, 2020. This article covers the environmental injustices wreaked by the annual sugarcane harvest. As the author describes, “before harvesting, leaves around the cane are ignited and burnt off like newspaper, revealing the sugar-rich stalks, which are about 70 percent water. This decades-old practice fills the air with smoke, soot, and ash. The result is the kind of particulate matter pollution that has been linked to a litany of adverse health effects — including, most recently, a heightened risk of dying from COVID-19” (n.p.). The article, which includes photos of the burning cane fields and the ash the fires leave behind, describes the damaging health effects that impact the predominantly Black community of Belle Glade, Florida. This is a story of the quest for environmental justice and the marginalization of a Black community by the sugar industry and is absolutely worth reading.

Meet One Farmer Who Left His Tech Job To Transform Northern Virginia's Agroscape by Tonya Mosley and Allison Hagan August 10, 2020. This interview with Chris Newman of Syvanaqua Farms tells the story of a man who left a career in tech to farm in Northern Virginia. His farm is mission-driven, seeing himself first as a water and land protector and a farmer second. In this interview, Newman discusses the transition from tech to agriculture, the practices he uses on his farm, and the ancestral knowledge that shapes his worldview being of both Black and Piscataway heritage. The discussion also highlights farm profitability for beginning farmers, indigenous land management, and Black and Indigenous preconceptions of agriculture, and issues within the food system and food value chain more generally, including issues of access and privilege.

Young farmers and farmers of color have been shut out of federal assistance during the pandemic by Laura Reiley July 16, 2020. Young farmers and farmers of color, who are more likely to be farming on smaller acreages and more likely to be marketing directly to consumers are disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn associated with coronavirus, according to this article. In her article, Reiley notes the difficulties young farmers and farmers of color face in accessing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, a program designed to keep mostly larger-scale growers afloat during the pandemic. This article explains the barriers young farmers and farmers of color face in accessing federal assistance, as well as the added labor and other costs they are experiencing in an effort to adapt and keep their farms going. The article closes with a message of hope from a young farmer named Roberto Meza. Meza noted the pandemic “has been a great teacher” (n.p.). He then went on to explain that the pandemic has “illuminated what is wrong with the current paradigm; the inconsistencies are laid bare and we can see where we need to redirect resources. People want to pay attention to where their food comes from—they don’t take it for granted anymore” (n.p.).

Op-ed: How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System by Karen Washington July 10, 2020. In this article by food justice icon Karen Washington, we learn firsthand about the injustices Washington sees in her Bronx, New York community. She points out the systemic patterns of thought that label marginalized communities as ‘in need’ and sap their resources, wealth and power. Washington explains that changing the view of marginalized communities must begin with changing the food system to promote local ownership and encourage and enable communities to take back power through financial literacy and economic development. Washington discusses political barriers to this work as well as structures that operate outside of or in opposition to racial capitalism. This powerful read is not to be missed!

There Should Be Farmland in NYC Parks, and It Should Belong to Young Residents of Color by Melissa McCart June 25, 2020. This interview discusses the activist work of Amber Tamm Canty who is working to reclaim land in New York’s Central Park to create a working farm for Black and Brown people on the site of Seneca Village—a Black landholding that was claimed via eminent domain for the creation of Central Park. In two weeks, Tamm Canty had raised over $100,000 in a GoFundMe campaign toward this project. In this interview, Tamm Canty describes growing up in New York City, the need to recognize the indigenous peoples of the land, and the need to connect consumers with local produce. She also touches on the people who inspire her, the need to call in farming organizations that don’t adequately serve or that tokenize Black and Brown people, where she sees herself in five years, and what it means to be a farmer. This incredible activist is clearly on the rise and it’s worth getting introduced to her now through this article.

We Can’t Talk About Farming Without Talking About Race by Danielle Dorsey June 24, 2020. In this interview with Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm, Penniman describes the ways she has worked to heal her relationship with land that go “beyond slavery, sharecropping, and land-based oppression” to reconnect with her African ancestry and African land and agricultural traditions. As Penniman put it, “There are countless examples of how Black agrarians have revolutionized the way we connect to the earth and to each other” (n.p.). Penniman also discusses the anti-racist and healing work of Soul Fire Farm and how she works to promote anti-racist practice within food systems. She talks about the disparity between predominantly White landowners and predominantly Black and Brown farmworkers as well as food apartheid that keeps Black and Brown people struggling with food insecurity. Penniman also touches on the global pandemic and the current ‘global chaos’ in her interview, noting the connections with her ancestors that give her strength, persistence, and optimism.

Soul Fire Farm Helps the Marginalized Grow Their Own Food by Lindsey Campbell June 7, 2020. This article covers an initiative of Soul Fire Farm called ‘Soul Fire in the City.’ The initiative strives to support “people of color who struggle with a lack of access to fresh food, or have been impacted by mass incarceration” (n.p) by providing the means to start a backyard garden free of charge. The initiative has recently grown in response to the pandemic. The article also discusses the systemic racism that has contributed to people of color becoming increasingly disconnected from their food system over the past century. According to the article, “the initiative seeks to reconnect people of color with growing their own food, as the number of black farmers has dwindled over the years” (n.p).

We Don't Farm Because It’s Trendy; We Farm as Resistance, for Healing and Sovereignty by Ashley Gripper May 27, 2020. This essay follows the roots of Black-led organizations in agriculture. Gripper explains her growing connections with Black agricultural resilience and resistance and describes the danger Black communities face in losing control of their own narratives and, specifically, in the co-optation of the urban agriculture narrative “by white liberals and academics” (n.p.). Gripper traces the history of Black communities’ ties to land and to agricultural production from the end of the Civil War through the present and describes contemporary resistance movements that advocate for land sovereignty.

Subsistence in the Plantationocene: dooryard gardens, agrobiodiversity, and the subaltern economies of slavery by Judith A. Carney April 10, 2020. Carney’s recently published article from the Journal of Peasant Studies explores the concept of the ‘plantationocene’ (or the “epochal transformative institution” (p. 2) of monoculture reliant on enslaved labor at a massive scale) in the context of the subaltern and alternative food production that occurred in tandem plantation agriculture as expressions of Black resistance and liberation. Here Carney uses the realities of subaltern production which she terms ‘bio-cultural refugia’ and the ancestral and innovative agroecological knowledges that accompanies this production system as a source of imagination of a food production system that is both bio-diverse and more just than both historical and contemporary plantation agriculture.

The New Lobster Wars: Inside the decades-long East Coast battle between fishers and the federal government over Mi'kmaw treaty rights by Zoe Heaps Tennant November 10, 2020. This long-read captures the story of Indigenous fishers in the Canadian Maritimes and their fight with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). According to the article, many Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia “assert that they have an inherent right to fish and make a livelihood outside Canadian regulations” as these rights were “enshrined in the treaties their nations negotiated with the Crown in the eighteenth century” (n.p.). Using the stories of a few Indigenous fishers and their catch to weave the narrative together, this article takes a tour through the history of Mi’kmaw and federal government relations—a relationship defined by surveillance and countersurveillance. It also outlines contemporary solutions to the long battle between the Mi’kmaw and the DFO. This is a long article but an important and captivating one and is worth reading to learn about food and fishery sovereignty in the Canadian Maritimes. 

The Food System: Concentration and Its Impacts by Mary K. Hendrickson, Philip H. Howard, Emily M. Miller and Douglas H. Constance 2020. This comprehensive report on the state of concentration in the food system examines the consequences of that concentration. Here, the authors pay particular attention to increasing concentration and consolidation and look at its impacts on economic and political power in the U.S. and globally. This article responds to the dire need for equity in our food system and attends to impacts on democracy, ecology, and community.

The Black Church Food Security Network Aims to Heal the Land and Heal the Soul by Amy Frykholm November 10, 2020. This is an interview with Heber Brown III, founder of the Black Church Food Security Network. We’re thrilled to feature this piece today because we’ve been following Brown’s work for a while now. According to the article, the Black Church Food Security Network aims to catalyze the strength of Black communities to improve health and well-being. In this interview, Brown discusses the founding of the Black Church Food Security Network, the reasons why he chose to set up a network rather than a food charity and the ways the Black Church Food Security Network has developed since its founding. Frykholm and Brown also discuss Brown’s background and his agricultural heritage, as well as the spirituality that guides his work. This is an excellent interview with a leader in Black food security and food sovereignty and is not to be missed.

A New Native Seed Cooperative Aims to Rebuild Indigenous Foodways by Ray Levy-Uyeda November 10, 2020. This article captures the Indigenous American tradition of saving seed and shares wisdom related to Indigenous seed saving and traditional knowledge sharing practices. This article discusses how the idea for a Native seed cooperative arose and what its role could be in facilitating the sharing of “information, knowledge, and traditional practices as well as seeds” (n.p.). The role of the cooperative in raising appreciation for saved seeds, ‘communal capacity,’ and the potential of seed sovereignty in healing intergenerational trauma forms the foundation of this article. 

'Secret Life Of Groceries' Shines A Light On Bounty's Dark Side by John Henning Schumann November 7, 2020. Here, we learn about the new book The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket through an interview with its author Benjamin Lorr. The interview covers the behind-the-scenes realities of food production and distribution in the U.S. In the interview, Lorr and Schumann examine the human and animal suffering that underlie our food supply, food insecurity, and the ways foods are categorized and labeled. They also trace the tenuous connections between knowing where food comes from and outcomes for laborers within the food system. This interview captures the nuances of food production and labor and is worth exploring.

Magic in the Dirt by Julia Turshen, photos and video by Brian Dawson October 30, 2020. This is a short piece interspersed with images and video. It highlights the sense of place associated with Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, Spirit Farm, an indigenous regenerative farm in Gallup, NM, and Detroit Hives, a Black-led beekeeping collective in Detroit. The piece is meant to be ‘visually immersive’ and is part of the New York Times series ‘From Here’ which intends to “explore how communities are gathering in a time of unprecedented change” (n.p.). Reading as a series of short vignettes and poignant quotes, this piece is beautifully put together and is worth checking out.

Saving Caribou and Preserving Food Traditions Among Canada’s First Nations by David Moskowitz October 29, 2020. As the title suggests, this photo essay captures the story of First Nations foodways in Western Canada. This piece describes the ways First Nations peoples of West Moberly and Saulteau are caring for the caribou at the center of their food traditions in the northern end of the Rocky Mountains in northeastern British Columbia. The caribou population has been threatened in recent decades by commercial hunting, logging and mining. This article tells the story of the First Nations people’s fight to protect the caribou accompanied by a series of breathtaking images. This is a story of food sovereignty and cultural survival and is not to be missed. 

To Free Ourselves, We Must Feed Ourselves by Leah Penniman October 22, 2020. Leah Penniman’s recent essay for Harper’s Bazaar tells the origin story of Soul Fire Farm, defines food apartheid, and examines what healing would look like within the context of food systems. This short piece discusses the work of Soul Fire Farm in addressing the root causes of food injustice and food apartheid. Last Penniman closes with a message about the strength and resilience of her forebearers and the power their legacy imbued within her.

The Promise of Pawpaw by Rachel Wharton October 19, 2020. This article draws attention to the pawpaw, an elusive fruit native to North America which can usually only be found at farmers markets or on local online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook. Here, the pawpaw is held to be an emblem of resistance and self-sufficiency, tied to food insecurity both historic and contemporary. Wharton, the article’s author discusses pawpaw cultivation in urban areas as well as in rural areas with a nod to their role in food sovereignty, and particularly indigenous food sovereignty.

Art, With A Side Of Food Justice, At Institute for Contemporary Art At Virginia Commonwealth University by Chadd Scott October 15, 2020. In this story from Forbes, Scott details a project designed by Richmond, Virginia-based activist Duron Chavis. In this project, Chavis has created his ‘resiliency gardens’ in a vacant lot adjacent to the Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond. The purpose of this effort is to highlight the issue of food security as well as the significance of Black and brown community spaces that are designed for and by Black and brown people. The resiliency gardens installation includes a wall with a mural featuring the message “Black Space Matters.” This article highlights activism in Richmond and is worth reading.

Food Justice: What is it and how can we fix it by Megan Woods October 6, 2020. This article highlights work of the Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation in partnership with Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) based in Roanoke. Here, Woods builds on quotes from community members and Center and LEAP staff to explore the meaning and implications of food deserts, themes of food justice, and mechanisms and strategies to break down barriers to food access and food security. The article highlights LEAP’s mobile market in combating food insecurity as well as the importance of listening and responding to community needs, rather than simply prescribing solutions.

There’s No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping by Josephine Livingstone October 1, 2020. In this article, Livingstone discusses the new book by Benjamin Lorr titled The Secret Life of Groceries. According to the article, the book is premised upon the question of whether ethical grocery shopping is possible and answers with a well-explained ‘no.’ Lorr, as the article says, traces the supply chain and breaks apart labels like ‘organic,’ free-range,’ and the like. This fascinating article recounts stories from the book along with the author’s reactions to them and to its overall message. This article is worth reading to gain a better understanding of the value chain systems that feed some while marginalizing others.

The Market of Virginia Tech helps provide healthy food to students in need by Albert Raboteau September 29, 2020. This article discusses the issue of food insecurity on college campuses, with attention paid to a study completed on the topic on Virginia Tech’s campus last year. Raboteau covers Virginia Tech’s efforts to mitigate student food insecurity and the receipt of a generous gift that allowed the Blacksburg campus to open ‘The Market of Virginia Tech,’ a free online ordering system which provides students in need with a week’s worth of fresh ingredients for healthy and satisfying meals. The article shares quotes from students who have experienced hunger and who have taken advantage of the new Market and it profiles the donors who made the market possible. 

Op-ed: How Patents Threaten Small Seed Companies by Kristina ‘Kiki’ Hubbard & Cathleen McCluskey September 11, 2020. This article covers the landscape of seed producers and intellectual property rights. The authors follow the common story of small seed companies being contacted by a multinational chemical company (whose subsidiary covers seed production) to assert their patents over germplasm with traits vaguely similar to those the small seed companies are producing. The article answers the question of why we should care about patents and how patenting germplasm threatens the seed production landscape for small scale farmers. In doing so, the authors link seed patents with issues of social justice and food (and seed) sovereignty.

Sean Sherman Is Decolonizing American Food by Brenna Houck September 1, 2020. This article is comprised of an interview with Sherman, in which he discusses the future of food and indigenous foodways, the challenges and opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as possibilities for Indigenous food sovereignty. This is another great article that highlights Sherman’s important work in promoting and strengthening Indigenous foodways and Indigenous food security.

Kamala Harris Brings Food Justice to the Democratic Ticket by Nadra Nittle August 18, 2020. The latest article by Nadra Nittle for Civil Eats highlights vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris’s commitment to food workers and notes her longstanding commitment to combating hunger in the US. Quoting Jessica Bartholow who works for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the article shares that “Short of having somebody who has actually worked in the food system or has experienced hunger themselves, she’s about as good as they get on food and hunger” (n.p.). This article shares Harris’s political record on fighting hunger and supporting agricultural workers in her native state of California and is worth reading to understand the track- record of a leading candidate for VP in the presidential race.

In changing urban neighborhoods, new food offerings can set the table for gentrification by Joshua Sbicca, Alison Alkon, and Yuki Kato July 10, 2020. Here, food systems scholars discuss the ways that food can be a crucial signal within processes of gentrification. The authors list examples from cities across the US and “identify the ways that food and gentrification are linked” (n.p.). According to this article, food businesses are often the first businesses to begin to change in historically disinvested neighborhoods and within communities of color. As the authors note, gentrifying food businesses “prepare neighborhoods for development, because food is a ubiquitous commodity and cultural cue” (n.p.), shifting perceptions of culture and color of a neighborhood. The authors describe the disturbing ways that food businesses capitalize on the cultural histories of communities, for example by co-opting and transforming culturally significant foods, and they also note the irony, writing “food becomes both a marker of to whom the neighborhood now belongs, while also ironically acknowledging to whom it used to belong” (n.p.). This article provides a broad overview and explanation of the linkages between food and gentrification and is incredibly illuminating.

New Indigenous Food Lab Looks to Mend a Broken System by Lindsay Campbell June 28, 2020. This article highlights the work of Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota chef known as the ‘Sioux Chef.’ In the article, Campbell describes the Indigenous food lab Sherman is creating in Minneapolis, Minnesota which will house a restaurant featuring pre-colonial food as well as an Indigenous food education and training center. According to the article, the food lab aims to “allow Indigenous people to reclaim cultural food traditions that have been absent for multiple generations” (n.p.) and in doing so, fill a knowledge gap and allow Indigenous people to address food access concerns and combat chronic dietary-linked illness.

To Free Ourselves We Must Feed Ourselves by Leah Penniman 2020. This article is by Leah Penniman, and in it she describes what she calls their ‘sacred work’—to “end racism and injustice in the food system” (n.p.). In this article Penniman describes the food apartheid and the ways that the pandemic is exacerbating food insecurity in communities where Black and Brown people make their livelihoods. She suggests five major shifts that are needed to create a just and sustainable food system. These are: land redistribution, justice for farm workers, localized mutual aid, ecological humility, and universal food access with dignity. She notes these reforms are necessary to the creation of a just food system because of the essentiality of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color within the currently unjust and unsustainable food system. As Penniman movingly wrote: “We are essential, not just our labor, but our lives. We hope that this becomes a moment of awakening to the truth that ‘to free ourselves, we must feed ourselves.’ All of us deserve this freedom” (n.p).

An Intergenerational Juneteenth Gathering Shows How the Black Food Sovereignty Discussion has Shifted by Nancy Matsumoto June 24, 2020. In this article, Masumoto captures the highlights of a discussion that happened last Friday on June 19th (Juneteenth) when over 20 Black food systems leaders congregated in an online forum for an “intergenerational, cross-cultural discussion about Black and Brown voices and the fight for justice in the food system” (n.p). Matsumoto uses quotes to note the rising awareness of the need for food justice as well as the years of work that Black and Brown people have already put in toward this end. She breaks the discussion into three themes and uses quotes to illustrate them. The themes she highlights are recasting colonialism, churches as resources, and the role of the black chef. She also points out that access to land was a recurring topic throughout the discussion. This important discussion is beautifully recast in this article and if you didn’t watch the discussion, it is absolutely worth catching up with this article.

Striving for Reparations: Land, Food, and Self-Determination in the North Philly Peace Park by Tagan Engel April 19, 2019. In this podcast from The Table Underground, host Tagan Engel speaks with Tommy Joshua Caison about the Peace Park he helped to create in North Philadelphia. In their conversation Engel and Caison discuss the meaning of human rights and radical love and skirt themes of self-determination and food sovereignty. This is an excellent example of a neighbor-driven project to assert food sovereignty and reclaim and repurpose a neglected community space to beautify and unify the neighborhood. It’s worth listening to the podcast, but if you don’t have time there’s a well written synopsis available on the website.

White Earth Food Sovereignty Initiative by Zachary Paige 2020. This article covers the food sovereignty initiative of the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. In it, Paige, the initiative’s leader, describes the ways White Earth envisions food sovereignty, food access issues in the community, the partnerships they have established in the pursuit of food sovereignty, and the ways they exercise their own food sovereignty. He discusses food sovereignty as a healing practice. Paige discusses the Tribe’s investments in community gardening and farm-to-school initiatives, as well as the purchase of a food truck to “cook and distribute traditional healthy foods throughout the reservation” (n.p.). This article provides an example of the practice of food sovereignty in the United States and is absolutely worth a look.

 

How the Lebanese Diaspora Is Mobilizing Against Food Insecurity at Home by Marianne Dhenin September 8, 2020. This article outlines the food crisis threatening Lebanon and describes the efforts of aid organizations to mitigate food insecurity. The article, with quotes from World Food Programme experts working in the country as well as both local and international diaspora volunteers, details the crisis and provides historical context to the impending food shortage. This brief but comprehensive article provides a window into the food system of this small Middle Eastern country and profiles mutual aid projects designed to bolster food security and lessen food shortages among struggling residents. 

As School Meal Programs Go Broke, a Renewed Call for Universal Free Lunch by Lisa Held June 29, 2020. In this article, Held discusses the difficulty school districts face in providing meals to students both while they’ve stayed home in the spring and summer and moving forward into the fall, whether they’ll be in school or staying home. This article discusses the nuances and financial dysfunctionalities of school nutrition programs and describes the reasons why solvency has become exceedingly difficult for school food programs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In the article, Held suggests policy solutions that could help schools meet demand and would help to tackle some of the systemic inequities that make financial solvency so elusive for school nutrition programs.

Give Some, Take Some: How the Community Fridge Fights Food Insecurity by Dayna Evans June 17, 2020. This article describes the ‘community fridge’ movement where community members and/or activists install a commercial fridge in an urban neighborhood and keep it stocked with foods that are free for the taking. According to the article, some of these spaces and fridges have become refueling hubs for organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement. The article draws connections between the free fridges around the globe stating that their commonality and their credit to success in combating food insecurity “is that they attempt to do the work that more bureaucratic and structural systems like the government won’t and formal food pantries can’t do” (n.p.). The article discusses mutual aid, food safety and regulatory concerns, food insecurity, and activist organizing.

Farm Country Feeds America. But Just Try Buying Groceries There by Jack Healy November 5, 2019. This article tells the story of lack of market access and food insecurity in farm country through the lens of Great Scott!, a community-owned market in Winchester, Illinois as well as through the stories of a handful of other small-town stores. Here, Healy covers the closure of grocery stores in farm country as well as the difficulties and advantages of rural communities starting-up and operating their own markets to serve their communities. The article also chronicles the rise of dollar stores in rural communities and the problems associated with the influx of dollar stores in rural towns. This poignant article underscores the importance of community-owned markets in bolstering community pride and unity.

Higher Education Should Lead the Efforts to Reverse Structural Racism by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, Peter H. Henderson, and J. Kathleen Tracy October 24, 2020. This article underlines the ways that higher education fails Black students. In it, the authors examine their own institution, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and the work this university has done to ensure there is no difference in the graduation rates of Black and White students. The authors assert that those working in higher education must engage in an effort to reverse structural racism because higher education is central to students seeking to fulfill the ‘American dream’: “We hold out to our students the promises of an enriched life and social mobility, and yet we often fall short in providing these to all who arrive on our campuses” (n.p.) This article describes a set of concrete steps UMBC has taken to ensure the success of all students and is worth reading for those working in higher education.

Anger Can Build a Better World by Myisha Cherry August 25, 2020. Here, Cherry writes about the generative power of anger in the context of Black Lives Matter protests. In this piece, Cherry lays out what forces fueled by anger offer to the protesters and to those whose lives they are protesting for. Quoting the poet Audre Lorde, Cherry notes that anger “can become a powerful source of energy serving progress” (n.p.) and in her essay depicts, in vivid detail, the energy serving progress derived from anger for Black Lives Matter.

Why are farmworkers joining the strike for Black lives? Shared roots by Alexandria Herr July 22, 2020. This article explores the reasons why farmworkers across the country walked off the job for eight minutes and 46 seconds on Monday in solidarity with the Strike for Black Lives. Here, the author describes the long history of solidarity between the United Farm Workers (UFW) union and racial justice advocates defending the dignity of Black life, including partnerships between Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, as well as between the UFW and the Black Panther Party. Herr discusses the shared struggles of these groups of activists as well as the shared vulnerabilities of the groups they defend and fight for. 

There are many leaders of today’s protest movement – just like the civil rights movement by Sarah Silkey July 7, 2020. This article helps to deconstruct the fallacious ‘cultural memory’ surrounding the Civil Rights Movement that leads us to the belief that the civil rights movement was led entirely by a group of ‘charismatic men.’ To dispel this, Silkey points us to the women who helped to lead the movement and illuminates the patriarchal culture that elevated men to positions of recognition and power where women, despite having positions of leadership in some cases, were relegated to the backdrop. Silkey draws comparisons between the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s and the Black Lives Matter movement of today. She concludes that comparing today’s movement to the “romanticized cultural memory of charismatic leadership in the Civil Rights Movement” effectively devalues the work and leadership of contemporary activists as well as those who worked behind the scenes during the Civil Rights Movement. As she compellingly wrote “Social change – then and now – derives from a critical mass of local work throughout the nation. Those who cannot find leaders in this movement are not looking hard enough” (n.p.). This article is as informative as it is powerful as is most definitely worth reading. 

Juneteenth 2020 will be infused with energy of anti-racist uprisings by Amanda Holpuch June 17, 2020. Here, Holpuch recounts the history of Juneteenth in the US and discusses the impact that the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump presidency, and the uprisings against racial violence will have on the celebration and commemoration of Juneteenth. She describes the historical and contemporary context of Juneteenth and provides a specific contextualized example from Tulsa, Oklahoma where a Trump rally is scheduled to take place on Saturday. In discussing the complicated context of this year’s observance of Juneteenth, Holpuch reminds us that Juneteenth is both a day for celebration and one of mourning for the past and current injustices that Black people in the US face every day.

Dear Philanthropy: These Are the Fires of Anti-Black Racism by Will Cordery June 1, 2020. This is a powerful article. In it, Cordery recalls the mobilization of the philanthropic network about five years ago to support the Black Lives Matter movement and traces its shift from leaning on and supporting Black-led organizations to more paternalistic support in the form of funding White-led organizations that are thought to be benefiting Black communities. As Cordery put it, “the philanthropic commitment for Black-led movement work had largely unraveled” (n.p.). Cordery frames this shift as instrumental in the loss of support for building organized power in Black communities. In his article, Cordery calls for philanthropy to fund racial justice and makes specific demands related to what that means. He points to the White privilege that undermines philanthropy and clouds its vision when supporting racial justice work. The vision for philanthropy reform that Cordery outlines in this article is both radical and necessary.

Black-owned restaurants are seeing a surge of interest and support. Advocates say it’s a start. By Emily Heil June 4, 2020. Here, Heil highlights the growing interest in and consumer awareness of Black-owned businesses in the midst of protests and the coronavirus pandemic. She describes initiatives aimed at helping consumers identify and support black-owned restaurants and notes the criticism that patronage at Black-owned restaurants is not enough to end racism. Countering this criticism, Heil quotes Anela Malik, a food blogger and activist in Washington who told her “Until we have radical social change, this is a concrete way people can recognize injustice in society and do something about it today. . . . There should be space for people to do activism at all levels” (n.p). This article is nuanced and comprehensive and is absolutely worth reading to learn more about how to identify Black-owned businesses. 

The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing by Erica Chenoweth et al. April 20, 2020. The authors of this article have compiled an extensive list of expressions of solidarity and activism. They credit the pandemic as a generative force for the creation of new tools and strategies that citizens may use to demonstrate discontent and lobby for change. They also note the ways people exercise defiance by acting in opposition to precautions in order to express their freedom to gather and demonstrate. The article emphasizes, however, the myriad creative ways organizers have devised to come together while physically distancing.

Haymarket Books Online Teach-In How to Beat Coronavirus Capitalism with Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and a musical performance by Lia Rose March 26, 2020. In this hour-and-thirty minute teach-in, three authors, Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga- Yamahtta Taylor discuss the ‘pandemic of capitalism’ given the rampant ‘coronavirus illness.’ They touch upon ‘Trump’s disaster capitalism cabinet’ and the profiteering and economic exploitation occurring in response to the current crisis. The authors also spend significant time discussing resistance to coronavirus capitalism and the challenges imposed by the need for physical distance, as well as the political and social distance that is constraining social movements. The authors are joined by musician, Lia Rose, who contributed a performance of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ to the teach-in.

Black Farmers Have Been Robbed of Land. A New Bill Would Give Them a “Quantum Leap” Toward Justice. by Tom Philpott November 19, 2020. This article details the injustices Black farmers in the U.S. have faced in the U.S. and explains the intentions of a new Senate bill called the Justice for Black Farmers Act. The article explains the history of land grabs and land grants in the country and outlines the precedent for such a bill. According to Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who is quoted in the article, this bill would represent an “equitable balancing of the scales after decades of systematic racism within the USDA that disadvantaged Black farmers, excluded them from loans and other programs, [and] prevented them from holding on to their land” (n.p.). This article is an important read to understand the history of injustice that Black farmers have faced, as well as a new proposal toward reparations.

How Saidiya Hartman Retells the History of Black Life by Alexis Okeowo October 19, 2020. This article from the New Yorker covers the life and work of Saidiya Hartman, a scholar and writer on Black history. Beginning with the story of her upbringing and early education, the story arcs toward Hartman’s current projects and her reactions to current events such as the coronavirus and the recent racial uprisings and police brutality and violence Cultural theorist, Judith Butler and poet, Fred Moten are quoted, among other theoretical luminaries, but these two summarize Hartman’s work neatly. Butler notes that the question that drives Hartman’s work is whether slavery ever really ended, and Moten told the author of the article, that “Saidiya does the very crucial work of expanding our understanding of the Black radical tradition,” revealing that it is “fundamentally the work of working-class Black women and young Black girls.” This is a beautifully written piece about an important contemporary thinker.

What Is the Future of Black Appalachia? By Oliver Whang September 26, 2020. Here, Whang explores the work of Ron and Jill Carson and the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, Virginia. The article takes the form of an interview with the Carsons that covers the reasons they began the Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, the ways the work of the Center addresses racism and White privilege in their community, as well as how the Center has addressed the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and how the Center has adapted its curriculum in light of current events. This is a brilliant interview with two important figures in Appalachian Virginia.

Black Appalachians find hope in national reckoning on race by Piper Hudspeth Blackburn September 29, 2020. This article covers legacies of racism and Black invisibility in Appalachia. Here Blackburn describes the efforts of individuals to increase the visibility of Black people within Appalachia, specifically through the new Black in Appalachia podcast. This is an important and concise article about the work that is being done to increase the recognition of diversity in Appalachia.

‘We Deserve a Country that Values All of Our Lives’: Highlander Director Talks COVID, BLM and Racism in America by Taylor Sisk August 19, 2020. In this interview, Highlander Research and Education Center co-executive director Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson discusses what it means to be Affrilachian and her family’s roots in the South, racism as a public health crisis, and the intersections of racism and the coronavirus pandemic. Woodward Henderson also discusses the significance of being the first Black woman to serve as executive director of the Highlander Center and the evolution of the Highlander Center over time, among other themes. This interview with the executive director of this storied and influential Center is absolutely worth reading.

The Perils of “People of Color” by E. Tammy Kim July 29, 2020. This New Yorker article takes an in-depth look at the term ‘people of color,’ examining its use and function thoroughly. The author, who is Korean American, describes her firsthand experience with the term as well as the way the term is wielded by and within different communities. She discusses the unity and solidarity the term evokes, as well as instances where the term becomes problematic or unhelpful.

Poverty Is a Choice by Anne Lowrey July 29, 2020. This article’s title seems to be controversial, but really the article covers the choices economists make in setting the metrics used to measure global poverty. The author discusses the different ways the World Bank and the UN measure and report on poverty and progress and poses a series of important questions related to the ways that poverty is calculated and viewed by world leaders. Her questions include: “What if world leaders and multilateral institutions focused on the $5.50 line, or measures of poverty that capture social exclusion and relative deprivation? What if the headline story were that half the world still qualifies as desperately poor, and poverty head counts remain stubbornly high in dozens of countries? What if the story were not that we are succeeding, but that we are failing?” (n.p.). Here’s an important response to world leaders’ views on declining rates of catastrophic poverty and stagnating rates of normalized destitution. In reading the article we learn that the triumph of neoliberalism in abating global poverty is a farce and worth critically questioning.

Urban planning as a tool of white supremacy – the other lesson from Minneapolis by Julian Agyeman July 27, 2020. This article by Dr. Julian Agyeman of Tufts University discusses the racist urban planning policies that have led to racial divisions and disparities. In it, Agyeman discusses Minneapolis as a case example to show that even in what is held to be one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the US, racist urban planning has shaped the demographic make-up of its neighborhoods, excluding Black people from areas deemed to be highly desirable. He describes the significant wealth gap in Minneapolis as well as the zoning that has contributed to its existence. Agyeman also demonstrates through examples what anti-racist urban planning might look like in this must-read article.

The Invention of the Police by Jill Lepore July 13, 2020. In this piece from the New Yorker, Jill Lepore breaks down the history of policing in the United States from its history as an English colony to the present. She studies the etymology of the term and discusses the history of policing in European countries before turning to examine the rise of the neighborhood watch (which originated in Europe and was exported to the colonies of the Americas). She traces the history of the police in the US to the slave codes and slave patrols of the colonies and then of the states, and the ways that police were employed to control and oppress slave communities and free Black communities in the early US. In addition to the history and statistics of policing in the US, Lepore focuses on the issue of gun ownership in the US and the relationship between police, firearms, and police-inflicted injury and death. She writes of the dysfunction of the US police force, noting that “To say that many good and admirable people are police officers, dedicated and brave public servants, which is, of course, true, is to fail to address both the nature and the scale of the crisis and the legacy of centuries of racial injustice. The best people, with the best of intentions, doing their utmost, cannot fix this system from within.” (n.p).

What is Owed by Nikole Hannah-Jones June 30, 2020. Here, MacArthur fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones covers the Black Lives Matter movement and traces the history of violence and social control from times of slavery into the present. She notes the lack of significant change throughout the U.S.’s brutal history: “the names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill Black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or to have breached the social order has remained” (n.p.). Hannah-Jones discusses the politics and policies that allow for continued oppression of black people and their continued segregation and she calls for widespread policy reform that would provide better protections for black people and would allow for the prosecution of ‘armed agents of the state’ who kill Black people. She also surveys, at length, the historically rooted wealth gap that defines and maintains black oppression, connecting the conditions Black people faced when slavery ended to those of the present moment. Through this discussion Hannah-Jones makes a compelling call for reparations, especially in light of the financial hardships disproportionately affecting Black people in the pandemic. This is a long read but Hannah-Jones’ powerful prose and effective tracing of historical injustices in her call for reparations make it absolutely worth reading.

Reckoning with Racial Justice in Farm Country by Gosia Wozniacka June 10, 2020. Wozniacka’s latest article covers racial justice and reform in the rural United States. This article traces the systemic racism that structures the agricultural industry in the US and notes the disadvantages Black farmers face not only within production systems but in their capacity to assert their rights given the threat of violence and other repercussions. She notes the silence in the farming community around racial justice issues and also the delay with which agricultural organizations responded to the recent uprising. Wozniacka also notes instances where farming communities have spoken out against injustice and she highlights some of the movement toward racial justice reform that has been taking place in agricultural spaces. This article spans a large historical period, underscoring the political importance of the current moment and the role of farmers of all races in advocating for change.

I’m a black climate scientist. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson June 3, 2020. In this piece, Johnson discusses the ways that racism negatively impacts the potential contribution of people of color in stopping and reversing climate change. In her article, Johnson asks, “How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes? How can people of color effectively lead their communities on climate solutions when faced with pervasive and life-shortening racism?” (n.p.). She describes the ways that racism has impacted her capacity to contribute to her field as a scientist. She asks the reader to “consider the discoveries not made, the books not written, the ecosystems not protected, the art not created, the gardens not tended” (n.p.) in considering the myriad damaging ways that racism impacts the lives of people of color and their capacity to contribute to their fields given the pressing need for them to resist racism before all else.

‘Gather’ Centers Efforts to Heal and Rebuild Indigenous Traditions and Foodways by Jade Begay October 14, 2020. In this article, Jade Begay interviews Gather director Sanjay Rawal. Gather, a documentary film focusing on North American Indigenous foodways, food and land sovereignty, and intergenerational trauma, was released in September. Here, Begay asks Rawal about his connections with the topic and the people at the center of the film, about the thread of intergenerational trauma within the film, and about his hopes for the message and impact of the film. They also discuss Rawal’s reflexivity as an outsider creating a film about Indigenous groups and about his stance on reparations for Native American communities. This is an incredibly thoughtful conversation between Begay and Rawal and also includes the trailer for the film. 

Indigenous Peoples Day comes amid a reckoning over colonialism and calls for return of Native land by Abel Gomez October 12, 2020. This article focuses on Indigenous land sovereignty and sense of place in North America. Tracking activism and land sovereignty movements from Canada to the U.S. border with Mexico, Gomez underscores the importance of land to Indigenous people in North America and the realities of land that was stolen from Indigenous groups across the history and present state of American colonialism. 

Native American capital among 11 most endangered historic sites by Andrew Lawler September 24, 2020. Here’s an article on land sovereignty in Virginia. This article discusses the ancient capital of the Monacan tribe and the fight to avoid a new pumping station being installed in a location that would jeopardize and endanger the ancient site. This National Geographic article outlines the history of Monacan resistance to invading colonizers and discusses the contemporary development of a water pumping station that would accommodate the increasing population of Louisa and Fluvanna Counties. This article follows the back-and-forth between the tribe and the water authority and underscores the need to recognize the land sovereignty issues present in our own state.

‘Make Farmers Black Again’: African Americans Fight Discrimination To Own Farmland by Jillian Forstadt August 25, 2020. This article shares the story of the struggle for Black landownership and the lack of Black representation in agriculture through the story of a Black farming family in upstate New York. Highlighting the hard-won successes of the Minton family and interspersing their story with statistics that demonstrate the difficulties Black people face in accessing land and resources to farm, Forstadt underscores the importance of ‘making farmers Black again.’ This is a beautiful story that weaves in historical context and modern-day struggles to demonstrate the need for an equitable agricultural system.

Black Farmers Look to Regain Their Land by Lindsay Campbell July 20, 2020. This article highlights the need to reclaim Black-owned land following mass dispossession over the course of the twentieth century. Here, the author features a fundraising campaign spearheaded by a group of Black farmers in Mississippi. The campaign aims to raise money to purchase the land of a recently deceased Black farmer to turn the land into an agricultural training center for aspiring Black farmers. This short article offers a brief overview of the injustices that have led to the loss of Black-owned land and Black farmers and highlights an exciting project and is worth a look!

Land loss has plagued black America since emancipation – is it time to look again at ‘black commons’ and collective ownership? By Julian Agyeman and Kofi Boone June 18, 2020. In their article, Agyeman and Boone note Juneteenth as an “opportunity to look back at how Black Americans were deprived of land ownership and the economic power that it brings.” They detail the systemic racism and discriminatory practices that have stripped Black communities of their land over the last century and they advocate for land reform and reparations in the form of “black commons” which they define as being based on “shared economic, cultural and digital resources as well as land” (n.p.). By their account, by ensuring Black commons, the U.S. could move forward in undoing the “racist legacy of chattel slavery by encouraging economic development and creating communal wealth” (n.p.). 

Ask Who Paid for America’s Universities by Tristan Ahtone and Robert Lee May 7, 2020. This article recounts the violent history of land grant universities noting their economic basis on the expropriation of indigenous land. The authors implore readers to go further than perfunctory acknowledgements in recognizing the impact the Morrill Act (which established land grant universities) had and continues to have on Native American communities and provides suggestions for moving forward within this context.

Land-grab universities: Expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system by Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone March 30, 2020.  The authors of the article critically investigate the land legacies of land grant universities that hold “creation stories that start with gifts of free land” (n.p). In the piece, the authors trace the land that was expropriated from indigenous communities by coercion or fraud. They also note the contemporary continuation of revenue gains from unjustly acquired lands emphasizing the need for conversation about this difficult topic rather than allowing for the perpetuation of faulty creation myths.

She, The People: Dara Cooper On Food Redlining, Reparations, And Freeing The Land by Kirsten West Savali June 19, 2019. This article was recommended by Brandi and Carlton Turner in advance of their (virtual) visit to Virginia Tech in April of 2020. The article is framed around an interview with Dara Cooper, a national organizer with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance. The interview focuses on the sacredness of land for many black farmers and focuses on themes of afro-futrism tied to reparations, black sovereignty, self- determination, and anti-capitalist land reclamation and collective stewardship. The article chronicles the systematic ways in which southern Black communities were stripped of their land and cites Black women scholars such as Monica White, Leah Penniman, Ashante Reese, and Naa Oyo Kwate as carrying the torch for Black healing and liberation through the creation of a sustainable food infrastructure. 

Migrant Workers Restricted to Farms Under One Grower’s Virus Lockdown by Miriam Jordan October 19, 2020. This article from the New York Times shares the story of Mexican farmworkers employed by a large tomato enterprise in the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This disturbing account explains the ways Lipman Family Farms has sought to control the incidence of coronavirus outbreaks among their employees by forcing them into lockdown. As the article explains, “The large tomato enterprise has been able to impose the restrictions on its workers because they are beholden to the company for their visa, housing and wages” (n.p.). There are harsh repercussions for breaking the enforced lockdown as doing so would result in being fired and sent back to Mexico, resulting in the loss of pay and future opportunity to work in the U.S. According to farmworkers, the lockdown has made the worksite feel more like a ‘prison.’ This is an important read about Virginia agriculture and the ethical implications of reducing coronavirus through the use of an enforced lockdown, one that would not be possible with more enfranchised workers.

‘Treated as expendable’: Migrant farmworkers fall through gaps in the rural South’s patchwork health system by Timothy Pratt October 7, 2020. As the title suggests, this article tells the story of migrant farmworkers in the rural south and their ability to access healthcare. It tells of the perils of slow test results and the lack of information on farms, especially information available in Spanish or Indigenous languages about the coronavirus. The article covers the role nonprofits and other community-based organizations have been trying to fill in disseminating information and helping farmworkers access care. The author also writes of the lack of unified strategy within and across the southern states for combating and treating coronavirus cases in rural areas and among farmworkers. With personal stories and quotes from experts, this is an excellent read to stay informed about the situation of farmworkers in the South during the pandemic.

Automated Harvest Is Coming. What Will it Mean for Farmworkers and Rural Communities? By Twilight Greenaway Septembe 29, 2020. In this article, Greenaway discusses the politics of automation of agricultural practices. The author provides a thorough overview of the benefits and drawbacks of automation for farmers and farmworkers and offers a glimpse into what automation of a strawberry harvest would entail. This article also covers the impact of coronavirus in accelerating demand and enthusiasm for automation as California’s Central Valley’s coronavirus cases have surged among farmworkers. It also includes a section on the impact of agricultural automation and the dead end it presents to rural communities.

How California’s farmworkers are banding together to survive the pandemic by Yvette Cabrera September 24, 2020. In this article written for Grist, Cabrera documents the injustices farmworkers in California face, the role of unions and farmworker-led mutual aid programs working to protect them, and the details of a proposed relief package that could help shield farmworkers from the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabrera outlines the three bills within the relief package and the advocacy groups who are encouraging the governor to sign it. A quote from State Assembly Member Robert Rivas who took lead in writing the relief package bill in California underscores the importance of the issue of farmworker justice in California for all of us, including in Virginia and beyond: “Many of our agricultural regions here in California have seen disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 cases, and clearly this has threatened California’s most vulnerable workers. It has threatened their families, in an industry that is vital to our food security — not only in California and in the United States, but globally.” This article emphasizes the importance of just conditions for farmworkers and offers a glimpse at a potential pathway that could offer justice to farmworkers.

The Immokalee Way: Protecting Farmworkers Amid a Pandemic by John Bowe September 14, 2020. This article compares the labor conditions of farmworkers employed by labor contractors compared to those organized through the Fair Food Program and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The author exposes the working conditions within one hydroponic tomato production system in upstate New York noting that high tech agricultural practices don’t necessarily correlate with better working conditions. The article describes the work of labor contractors who are accused by critics with creating “a legal firewall, shielding larger employers and corporations from civil and criminal liability for failure to comply with labor, worker safety, and immigration laws” (n.p.). The article provides vivid detail on how cases of coronavirus broke out at the hydroponic operation before moving to discuss the Fair Food Program and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers—groups tasked with advocating and fighting for fair and just labor conditions in agricultural production. The article provides information on the work of these groups and how they’ve dealt with the pandemic in contrast to that of labor contractors.

American’s Food Supply Chain Was Already Deadly. Then Came the Wildfires. by Nick Martin September 15, 2020. For this article, Marin investigated and reported on the conditions of farmworkers in California and Oregon amidst raging wildfires and spiking cases of coronavirus. In the article, he underscores the agricultural labor conditions that have led to the current precarious situation of farmworkers in the west noting that “Much like the Smithfield plant workers forced back into slaughterhouses shortly after the pandemic exploded, farmworkers in California and Oregon are being pushed out into the fields despite chaotically dangerous conditions. Their pay hasn’t budged, nor do they have the promise of health care for potential long-term health impacts from repeated smoke and ash exposure”. Underlining the injustices farmworkers face in this country, he writes of situations where workers are forced into the field (both by labor contractors and by their own economic instability) under the dire circumstances of critically poor air quality and a global pandemic. This article covers pending legislation that could protect farmworkers and other possibilities for a more just food system while underscoring the grave conditions farmworkers face at present.

Berry Farmers Break Free From Big Agriculture by Lynsi Burton August 29, 2020. This is a story of workers taking control of the means of production, containing themes of food justice and food sovereignty. This article shares the story of a group of agricultural laborers who advocated for better working conditions with their employers and then formed their own berry growing cooperative in Washington state. The article highlights the injustices the workers faced and the opportunities that having their own farmworker-led cooperative offers.

‘The sun is hot and you can’t breathe in a mask’ - life as an undocumented farmworker by Gabriel Thompson May 28, 2020. This article offers a firsthand account of what it’s like to be an undocumented farmworker working in the United States during the coronavirus crisis. In it, a farmworker, given the pseudonym Roberto Valdez, describes the experience of trying to protect himself from coronavirus as he harvests crops in the desert southwest. This article highlights the precarities and injustices farmworkers face, as well as the pride they feel as they fulfill the duties of their vital work.

Op-ed: Migrant Farmworkers, Native Ranchers in Border States Hit Hardest by COVID-19 by Gary Nabhan May 22, 2020. Here, Nabhan details the working and living conditions that make migrant farmworkers and Native ranchers particularly susceptible to COVID-19. He reminds us that “Navajo Nation farming, herding, and ranching families are being hit by COVID-19 at rates double their contribution to the overall population in the Southwest” (n.p.) and explains the language barriers and other obstacles that migrant farmworkers face in protecting themselves and accessing care if they do fall ill. In his article, Nabhan sets this tragic scene with compassionate prose, making this thoughtful and well-researched article a must-read.

 The farmworkers putting food on America's tables are facing their own coronavirus crisis by Catherine E. Shoichet April 11, 2020. Last Saturday, CNN covered the unique challenges farmworkers face during the pandemic. With direct quotes from farmworkers and farmworker organizers and advocates, this article details lapses in safety and farmworker protections, as well as the seeming inevitability of a devastating outbreak of COVID-19 among farmworker communities. CNN also recognizes advocates’ call for several policy changes that could reduce risk and ensure worker protections. These changes include requiring sick leave, guaranteeing federally funded healthcare services, and covering COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status.

 

 

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