Consider food justice

Kitsap Aware has planned a forum on Food Justice for June. I researched the topic to share some basics.

That big old divide between the rich and the poor shows up in every aspect of life and food is no exception. Poor folks usually don’t have the option of choosing food that’s best for their bodies.

The poor and near poor have difficulty having the money to just buy food, let alone pick the healthiest. What can you do when retail prices keep rising astronomically, but wages stay paralyzed for decades?

The cheapest food is processed food, fast food. It’s unhealthy because it’s filled with salt, sugar and fats. There’s also the unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives that only corporate scientists truly know about.

One great alternative to the cheapest, least healthy food is fresh, local, organic produce. Yes, they are more expensive than processed foods or even non-organic produce. But it’s becoming more and more important.

We recently learned that literally every California beer and wine tested (by Microbe Inotech Lab) contained glyphosate herbicide which is linked to numerous serious diseases. Think Roundup.

The public also learned that several popular brands of tea bags contain pesticides “far above the safety limit,” per the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Still think we need to continue deregulating?

Foods certified as organic generally restrict pesticides and fertilizers in a natural farming process. This food should have no industrial solvents or chemical additives or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“People who live in low-income urban and rural areas often are less able to find affordable healthy foods in their neighborhoods. In order to choose healthy foods, individuals must have physical, financial, nutritional, and cultural access.” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Food justice is about everyone having that right to have access to healthy food. It’s about how, where and by whom it’s grown.

“Every bit as crucial as food access is just treatment and living wages for the people who grow, wash, cook, transport and sell our food. If everyone who touched food made enough money to pay for high quality food out of their wages, our food system would be on its way to greater fairness and long-term economic viability,” writes Elizabeth Henderson, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Why do we have this problem? Three powerful corporations control seed, pesticides and fertilizers and have been taking over agribusiness for many years.

These mega-corporations have caused farmers to lose their land because of corporate greed. Farmers get what’s left over after the corporate buyer knocks the product down as far as they can. The agribusiness corporation then takes its giant slice and what’s left over is for the farmer. Big supermarkets, big restaurants have considerable power and consequences for farmers don’t appear to be important.

Millions of Americans are eating only food from these agribusiness corporations. Harvests are taken from the farm to laboratories where they add chemicals that makes them taste better and, once eaten, causes our bodies to crave more of the same. Great for sales, not for Americans.

Kitsap County has eight official food banks, one of which is Kingston’s Sharenet off Bond Road. Poulsbo has the North Kitsap Fishline on Viking Way. In addition to the eight is the well-regarded Kingston Food Bank, housed downtown.

The best of possible health worlds is to grow our own garden if possible. Since it takes money, knowledge and a great deal of commitment to have a successful garden, many share backyard gardens or community gardens. This is a good idea for all of us to start thinking about.

You’re invited to join Kitsap Aware at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 3, for a forum on food justice. Speakers are Kelly Lake, of the Community Alliance for Global Justice and the Food Justice Project, and Kathy Curry, who works with other volunteers who grow produce for Kingston’s Sharenet.

— Marylin Olds is a Kitsap opinion columnist. You may reach her at with questions or comments.