Racial Equity in the Food System
Understanding legacies of racism and inequity in the food system is essential to our work at the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation. Our Center works to explore and address the way colonialism, forced labor, resource extraction, and institutional racism have historically contributed to the conditions of the current system. Through educational programming, teaching, outreach, and research, we promote analysis and critical thought regarding our food system, while embracing and exploring the abundant possibility for solutions and outcomes that move us toward a more humanizing system so that all may flourish.
We address racial equity and justice, as well as food and land sovereignty through our educational programming. The sections below share a few examples of these offerings. For a full list of our Center events, visit our Events & Speakers page.
Racial Equity & Justice Programming
In partnership with frontline organizations and academics in the field, our Center holds space for discussions and learning around racial equity and justice within the context of food systems and community transformation. Some examples include:
- Building Beyond Nice Racism: Catalyzing Institutional Change in the Food System (January 2021-May 2022)
- Building Racial Equity in the Food System: From Individual Anti-Racism to Dismantling Institutional Systems (March 2021)
- Learning Circle Series on Racial Justice in the Food System (Summer 2020)
- Dr. Monica White Speaks at Virginia Tech (February 2020)
Indigenous Food & Land Sovereignty Programming
Our Center collaborates with and supports the work of several centers and organizations on campus that uplift Indigenous voices and foster opportunities for learning around food and land sovereignty for Indigenous groups in Virginia and beyond. Some events we have supported in collaboration with the American Indian & Indigenous Cultural Center, Native at VT, the Catawba Sustainability Center, the Office for Inclusion & Diversity, American Indian Studies, and more include:
- An Original People's Forest Visit with Mx. Tyson Sampson, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (September 2022)
- Preserved, Foraged, and Fished: Celebrating What Nature Gifts Use While Our Gardens Rest (April 2022)
- Indigenous Community Garden Fall Harvest Gathering (November 2021)
- Earth Week Ecological Restoration Tour with the American Indian and Indigenous Community Center (April 2021)
A collection of news, op-eds, and public literature on food systems and community transformation. Many of the pieces included here have a specific emphasis equity and justice. Articles included are from local, regional, national and global authors and publications, both academic and those for a general audience. These articles are derived from a weekly digest consisting of 'five articles worth reading' that are shared with our listserv every Friday. Join our listserv to receive our weekly digest. If you have articles to suggest for our archive or weekly digest, please email Garland Mason at email@example.com.
When you visit our news archive, scroll to the 'Equity and Justice' section for articles related to this theme.
We have compiled here a selection of frontline organizations and community organizers who support the work of equity and justice within our food system. We've divided them into four categories to highlight groups working in Virginia, regionally, nationally, and globally. Please email Garland Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest an organization to be added to this list.
Africulture highlights, explores, teaches, and enhances the principles, practices, plants and people of African descent that have contributed to agriculture. Africulture provides outreach and training to targeted communities such as racial and ethnic groups in Virginia and throughout the country. Africulture conducts workshops, seminars, teach ins, and trainings in racial understanding and equity, in diversity and inclusion and provides audits, rubrics and metrics in these areas to assist institutions and organizations to analyze themselves and offer paths for improvement.
Agrarian Commons: Central Virginia
Administered by non-profit organization, Agrarian Trust (listed below under 'National'), the Central Virginia Agrarian Commons is a BIPOC-led group that supports BIPOC control of land for building resilient regional food systems.
Agrarian Commons: Southwest Virginia
The Southwest Virginia Agrarian Commons is a collaboration between a regional land trust, an urban community farm, a university sustainability center and teaching farm, and Agrarian Trust to support small-scale food production and habitat diversity and counter high rates of prime farmland loss.
Cambium Collective helps to grow a just and equitable world through personal, organizational, and community transformation. They offer services for equitable community planning, liberating organizational development, and facilitation, training, coaching and conflict transformation.
Christiansburg Institute, Inc. is a grassroots 501(c)3 cultural heritage and historic preservation non-profit organization with a mission of community education, intergenerational empowerment, and the responsible stewardship of African American history, stories, and culture.
Cultivate Charlottesville, Food Justice Network
Cultivate Charlottesville’s Food Justice Network builds racial equity in the Charlottesville food system through education, organizing, and advocacy. Their goal is to build a healthy and just food system for all Charlottesville citizens, no matter an individuals’ race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, age, economic background, or neighborhood location. The Charlottesville Food Justice Network hosts dialogues and events to support this goal.
Happily Natural Day
Happily Natural Day is a powerful summer festival dedicated to holistic health, cultural awareness and social change. Accept no substitutes; Happily Natural Day is about substance over image, loving ourselves as African people, and changing our community as a result of that love. Happily Natural Day is an African centered business expo, a cultural arts and craft trade show, an all-day lecture & workshop seminar, a conscious hip hop, soul and spoken word showcase, a fashion and natural hair exhibition and holistic health fair all rolled in one.
This three day event has taken place for the past twelve years in Richmond Virginia and for seven in Atlanta Georgia. Happily Natural Day has a solid attendee base from all across the country and internationally.
Project GROWS is an educational, nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, Virginia through garden-based education and access to healthy food.
Richmond Food Justice Alliance
The Richmond Food Justice Alliance is a resident-led movement to increase access to healthy food in neighborhoods across the City.
The Racial Equity in Agricutlure Lab (R.E.A.L.)
The Racial Equity in Agriculture Lab (R.E.A.L.) is a collaboration between Michael Carter Jr., Duron Chavis, and Shantell Bingham. They offer programs for organizations that support racial equity change making in agriculture. They also lead related projects in support of this goal including Africulture and the Happily Natural Festival.
Sylvanaqua farm, run by Chris Newman, a Black and Indigenous farmer, delivers CSA shares to Charlottesville, Richmond, Fredricksburg, and Washington DC and dedicates half of the harvest toward ending food apartheid in in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Richmond, VA, Charlottesville, VA, and the Virginia Beach areas by organizing mutual aid to distribute farm fresh food to 'people left behind by the farm to table movement.' Sylvanaqua Farm also engages in advocacy through public speaking, writing, and by creating a platform for communities to develop their food sovereignty.
Virginia Free Farm
Virginia Free Farm, an Indigenous & veteran led 501(c)(3) is dedicated to cultivating food security and transforming the by providing free, nutritious, responsibly produced healthy food to neighbors in need. Virginia Free Farm also supplies plants, seeds, chickens, and ducks to community gardens with an eye toward making the foodshed more resilient & self sufficient.
Virginia Organizing is a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Virginia Organizing especially encourages the participation of those who have traditionally had little or no voice in our society. By building relationships with individuals and groups throughout the state, Virginia Organizing strives to get them to work together, democratically and non-violently, for change.
Virginia Tech Office of Inclusion and Diversity
Serving as a catalyst for capacity building across Virginia Tech, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity promotes sustainable institutional transformation and accountability; representational diversity; an inclusive, welcoming, affirming, and accessible safe campus climate; and the integration of issues of equity and identity into the academic mission. Blane Harding, the Director of Diversity Engagement is available to provide trainings across campus and with VT affiliated organizations such as Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Agrarian Trust's mission is to support land access for the next generation of farmers. Agrarian Land Trust is a single national 501(c)(3) land trust with multiple local 501(c)(2) community land commons across the United States..
Black Church Food Security Network
The Black Church Food Security Network utilizes an asset-based approach in organizing and linking the vast resources of historically African American congregations in rural and urban communities to advance food and land sovereignty.
Black Family Land Trust, Inc.
The Black Family Land Trust, Inc. (BFLT) incorporated in 2004 and based in North Carolina, is one of the nation’s only conservation land trust dedicated to the preservation and protection of African-American and other historically underserved landowners assets. The BFLT utilizes the core principles of land conservation and land-based community economic development to achieve our goals. They measurably improve the quality of life for landowners, by providing families with the tools necessary to make informed, proactive decisions regarding their land and its use. The BFLT works primarily in the Southeastern United States, our programs are intergenerational in their design. We honor the legacy of those stewards of the land that came before us and have faith in those stewards of the land that will come after us.
Black Farmer Fund
Black Farmer Fund (BFF) is an emerging community investment fund that invests in black food systems entrepreneurs in New York State. The mission of Black Farmer Fund is to create a thriving, resilient, and equitable food system by investing in black food systems entrepreneurs and communities in New York. The Black Farmer Fund will also serve as a bridge for black communities to participate in creating a food system that benefits those within and outside of black communities.
CATA - The Farmworkers Support Committee
CATA - The Farmworkers Support Committee is a non-profit organization founded by migrant farmworkers in New Jersey in 1979. CATA is a grassroots, membership-based organization working with farmworkers and the Latino immigrant community in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. CATA’s work focuses on workers’ rights, health and safety in the workplace, immigrant's rights, and food justice.
The Federation Of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
The Federation is a non-profit cooperative association of black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives. We are organized by state associations with field offices serving a primary membership base in the Southern States. The majority of their farmers, landowners, cooperatives, and credit unions are in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana. Their largest individual membership base is in South Carolina. Their largest co-op membership base is in the state of Mississippi.
Land Loss Prevention Project
The Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP) was founded in 1982 by the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers to curtail epidemic losses of Black owned land in North Carolina. LLPP was incorporated in the state of North Carolina in 1983. The organization broadened its mission in 1993 to provide legal support and assistance to all financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners in North Carolina. LLPP's advocacy for financially distressed and limited resource farmers involves action in three separate arenas: litigation, public policy, and promoting sustainable agriculture and environment.
The Mississippi Center for Cultural Production
The Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture) is honoring the history and building the future of Utica, MS. Their work weaves together research, development, local agricultural, with contemporary media & storytelling to promote the legacy and vision of our hometown. Their place-based model program will promote economic empowerment and self-sufficiency of low- and moderate-income people through education, technical assistance, training, and mentoring in agribusiness. Additionally, it will work with the community to create an advocacy base to lobby and establish increased broadband access in this rural community – a key to sustainable community development in the 21st century.
Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network
Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON) is a nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA. They are a network of Black farmers in the Southeastern United States who are committed to culturally relevant, ancestrally guided, and ecologically sustainable agricultural-based. SAAFON works to strengthen Black farmers’ collective power to build an alternative food system rooted in progressive values.
Agricultural Justice Project
The Agricultural Justice Project raises awareness of the need for transforming the food system and offers certification and technical assistance tools bring this vision to reality. They support and partner with third-party certifiers and worker organizations to carry our certification and inspections for their Food Justice Certification standard.
Black Urban Growers
Black Urban Growers (BUGS) is an organization committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. Through education and advocacy around food and farm issues, they nurture collective Black leadership to ensure Black people have a seat at the table.
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work. The CIW is also recognized for pioneering the design and development of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility paradigm, a worker-led, market-enforced approach to the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains.
Food First envisions a world in which all people have access to healthy, ecologically produced, and culturally appropriate food. As a “people’s think tank”, Food First is dedicated to ending the injustices that cause hunger and helping communities to take back control of their food systems. Food First advances this mission through three interrelated work areas: research, education and action. These work areas are designed to promote informed citizen engagement with the institutions and policies that control our food and to integrate local, national and global efforts. Informed by a vast network of activist-researchers, Food First’s analysis and educational resources support communities and social movements at the forefront of change in the food system. This work both informs and amplifies the voices, strategies, and solutions of social movements fighting for food justice and food sovereignty.
HEAL Food Alliance
HEAL is a national multi-sector, multi-racial coalition of 55 organizations led by their members, who represent over 2 million rural and urban farmers, ranchers, fishers, farm and food chain workers, indigenous groups, scientists, public health advocates, policy experts, community organizers, and activists. Together, these groups are building a movement to transform our food and farm systems from the current extractive economic model towards community control, care for the land, local economies, meaningful labor, and healthful communities nationwide, while supporting the sovereignty of all living beings.
National Black Farmers Association (NBFA)
The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the United States. As an association, it serves tens of thousands of members nationwide. NBFA's education and advocacy efforts have been focused on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for black and other small farmers.
National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA)
National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) is a coalition of Black-led organizations aimed at developing Black leadership, supporting Black communities, organizing Black self-determination, and building institutions for Black food sovereignty & liberation. The Alliance seeks to achieve this by engaging in broad based coalition organizing for black food and land, increasing visibility of Black led narratives and work, advancing Black led visions for just and sustainable communities, and building capacity for self-determination within our local, national, and international food systems and land rights work.
They focus our work on black food sovereignty, self-determining food economies, and land. They approach food sovereignty, land and self-determining food economies through the lens of healing, organizing & resistance against anti-Blackness.
Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance
The Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance is an organization dedicated to restoring the food systems that support Indigenous self-determination, wellness, cultures, values, communities, economies, languages, and families while rebuilding relationships with the land, water, plants, and animals that sustain us. Through their efforts and programs, they bring stakeholders and communities together to advocate and support best practices and policies that enhance dynamic Native food systems, sustainable economic development, education, trade routes, stewardship, and multi-generational empowerment. They work to put the farmers, wild-crafters, fishers, hunters, ranchers, and eaters at the center of decision-making on policies, strategies and natural resource management.
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
An alliance of farmers, farm workers, indigenous, migrant, and working people from the United States, Mexico, Canada, and beyond, working together toward a new society that values unity, hope, people, and the land. Rural Coalition/ Coalición Rural has served as a voice of African-American, American Indian, Asian-American, Euro-American and Latino farmers, farmworkers, and rural communities in the US, as well as indigenous and campesino groups in Mexico and beyond for 40 years.
Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC*-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. Along with their on farm and community programs and activities that aim to end food apartheid, they provide a training titled “Uprooting Racism in the Food System” that is a theory and action training for farming and food justice leaders to uproot systemic racism in our organizations and society.
The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond
The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB), is a national and international collective of anti-racist, multicultural community organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social transformation.
The Wallace Center
The Wallace Center has been a leader in the development of healthy regional farming and food systems since 1983. We serve the growing community of organizations, businesses, and public agencies involved in building a good farming and food system in the United States. Their program work focuses on advancing collaborative, regional efforts to grow and move good food – food that is healthy, regeneratively produced, and recognizes and builds value across the entire supply chain, from producers to farm workers, aggregators, processors, distributors, buyers, and the community based organizations supporting the food ecosystem.
Slow Food USA
Seeking to create dramatic and lasting change in the food system, Slow Food USA reconnects Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. Slow Food USA inspires individuals and communities to change the world through food that is good, clean and fair for all.
Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)
Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Portuguese, is a mass social movement, formed by rural workers and by all those who want to fight for land reform and against injustice and social inequality in rural areas.
Slow Food International
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.
La Vía Campesina advocates for family-farm-based sustainable agriculture, and was the group that coined the term "food sovereignty". La Vía Campesina carries out campaigns to defend farmer's right to seeds, to stop violence against women, for agrarian reform, and generally for the recognition of the rights of peasants.
Commitment to Justice, Equity, and Inclusion
As a Center within College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension our positionality is complex. Our Center's physical office on Virginia Tech's Blacksburg Campus locates us on Tutelo/Monacan land, on the site of a former plantation, and within a campus built through the labor of enslaved Black people. Read our full statement for more information about how we commit to justice, equity, and inclusion in our work and within our community.