WASHINGTON, DC — One of the brutal facts of today’s world is that many people, particularly children, are going to bed hungry many days of the month even if families have SNAP, WIC or some other government assistance. Hunger in America exists not because of a lack of food, but because of a lack of willingness to change a food system which leaves lower-income working people as well as the middle classes underfed and undernourished.
Why? It is because we the people allow it, tolerate it, think it’s inevitable. We are so busy trying to survive that we turn away from ugly truths about the country we have built. There is an irreconcilable conflict between the democracy we say we want and the economic system we established to support that democracy. Our democracy says all people regardless of human condition are entitled to basic rights and needs and that the job of government is to ensure those rights are protected and our needs are met. But our economic system lets some people amass tremendous wealth and power, while others have nothing. Equity and fairness go out the window.
While our food system is not the only injustice in today’s America, many people have been working to shed light on it and address its systemic failures. We have become urban and rural farmers, nutritionists, chefs, food truckers, food justice advocates, food bank and pantry workers in an attempt to improve the system and provide genuinely healthy food for real people. If people had access to healthy, nutritious food, they might not get diabetes, cancer and heart attacks that kill working Americans at alarming rates while enriching the pharmaceutical industry. If our food system did not use so many chemical pesticides and fertilizers, we might avoid contaminating our bodies and be able to prevent disastrous health outcomes.
Our food system is literally upside down. Producing food is an American mega-business while its farmers and food workers are at the bottom of the economic pyramid, earning less than a living wage. Those who do the most for us are paid and valued the least—unless they are launched into celebrity-hood, like a handful of mainly white, largely male chefs or restaurateurs. The rest of us barely eke out a living, growing, preparing, marketing, serving, and cleaning up after food.
Why is this? Who suffers? Who benefits? How do we fix our broken food system? That is the subject of our conference.
We look at the entire system to make sense of it and we invite you to join us. Nothing gets addressed, fixed, and made fair and just unless we the people shed light on it and take consolidated action. Let’s fix our broken bodies and our broken food system together.
Margaret Morgan-Hubbard is founder of ECO-City Farms in Bladensburg, MD. Michele and Rick Tingling-Clemmons (who slightly edited this article), are officers in the Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington and the principal organizers of the Food Justice and Our Right to Food conference planned for March 23-25 at 301 49th Street NE, Washington, D.C.