Words from our chair: We cannot talk about food without talking about racismJune 4, 2020
It should be abundantly clear that we cannot talk about food, food security, or food justice without talking about the role racism and injustice plays.
By Leticia Ama Deawuo, Chair, SeedChange Board of Directors and Director of Black Creek Community Farm
Recent world events have torn open the inherently racialized, unequal and capitalist foundation of our world. What we all know to be a violent way of organizing the world, has now come to the forefront and we see Black, racialized and white people across the world taking their frustration and longstanding grief and rebellious rage to the streets.
In this post, I want to think out loud about the role food justice plays in the larger fight for racial justice.
I write this with news that migrant farmers in Ontario have just disproportionately been affected by COVID-19. With all we know about how migrant workers are housed, and the conditions under which they are made to work, Canadians and federal government officials should not be surprised. And they should have been better prepared to adequately house migrant workers, and keep them safe. As we know, migrant seasonal workers who come to Canada—on which our entire food system relies—are predominantly Black and racialized.
As we have seen through the pandemic, so much of Canada’s food is grown by Black and racialized people. Yet when it comes to creating food policy, we are rarely at the decision-making table.
In Canada, Black people are 3.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to experience food insecurity. Accessing land, funds, and credit is harder for Black folks. As we have seen through the pandemic, so much of Canada’s food is grown by Black and racialized people. Yet when it comes to creating food policy, we are rarely at the decision-making table. And when Black and racialized people in Canada advocate and agitate to enter policy making forums and work to tackle these issues, we face barriers, because nonprofits led by Black and racialized folks receive less funding than those run by white counterparts.
By now, it should be abundantly clear that we cannot talk about food, food security, or food justice without talking about the role racism and injustice plays in the food landscape. They are never separate, but rather intertwined especially because Canada’s food security is guaranteed by non-white—cheap or poorly paid—labour, even though these labourers are not recongnized by the State and society.
With so many rebelling, with Black and racialized life at the centre of the world’s attention, this moment in time is revealing deep-seated issues that have existed for far too long. Food sovereignty organizations run by Black, racialized and Indigenous people have worked for decades to change the system, and we will continue to do so.
One way I am trying to do that is with my role as director of the Black Creek Community Farm (BCCF). BCCF is an eight acre farm in the Jane and Finch community in Toronto. We work to increase access to healthy food in the Jane and Finch community—which is mostly populated with Black and racialized people. At the farm, we provide hands-on training and learning, and provide leadership in food justice to inspire the next generation of growers and eaters.
BCCF is proudly community-based and community-led. This means when crisis strikes, we are able to respond quickly. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an immediate spike in food insecurity, and we responded by distributing fresh food boxes to impacted families in partnership with FoodShare and other community organizations. So far, we have distributed 3,996 boxes (29,000 kilograms of food) to families.
If you are troubled by what you are learning about the systemic barriers Black, racialized and Indigenous people in Canada face, I urge you to stay engaged following this crisis.
No one person or organization can make massive systemic change happen alone, but we can challenge those systems together. And as the state of the world is showing us, that change must be not sooner rather than later, that change must be now.
Please learn about and support these Black-run farms and food justice organizations
Leticia Ama Deawuo is the director of Black Creek Community Farm, a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council, and the chair of the board of directors of SeedChange.