The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Kate Meals


Comprehensive change to our food systems must include a combination of community-based solutions and the elimination of racism from all structural levels. An anti-racist analysis of hunger is necessary to contextualize the power dynamics and structures responsible for food inequality. In recent decades, globalization and exponential population growth have pushed the boundaries of economic, social, and ecological sustainability, threatening global food security. Despite the fact that it is fundamental to human survival, adequate access to food is often viewed as a privilege, rather than a basic human right. These practices work to maintain a food system crisis that disproportionally impacts people of color. Because of this, community gardens can be integral to survival in areas like the South Bronx in New York City. The crisis in the South Bronx is representative of the hunger and food access limitations affecting communities of color throughout the country. Policy discussions about food insecurity often ignore the histories of institutionalized racism that have increased the amount of hunger and poverty, and instead tend to place the blame on the struggling communities. Our nation’s history of discriminatory zoning and other racist government policies has created segregation, inequality in food access, and urban decay. Discriminatory mortgage lending practiced by the Federal Housing Administration from 1930 to 1950, and overtly racist policies promulgated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development deepen the poverty divide. The food justice movement has the capacity to reorient conversations surrounding food insecurity, poverty, and the like toward addressing deep seeded inequities and transforming society as a whole.

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