A just food system is one in which people produce, distribute and eat foods without being affected by systemic inequality based on race, class, ability or gender. Through the lenses of mindfulness and compassion, we are able to see clearly that injustice takes place on the level of unhealthy farming and production methods. When we look even more deeper, we become also aware of the structural causes of food injustice.
For mindful eating teachers it is essential to realize that food injustice affects the most those at the bottom of the power pyramid. For centuries, the Western world has been transformed in such a way where children, women and colored people in Europe and the US, were the least privileged to have free access to a rich variety and supply of foods. It could be for reasons such as a lacking the legal rights of land accessibility in order to cultivate their own produce or being financially dependent on others.
What is Food Justice?
Food justice actually means social justice as food is our most intimate connection with ourselves, our communities, our food tradition which has passed on from mothers to daughters and ultimately also mother earth. Unfortunately, the positive feminine and nurturing qualities related with food and eating got disrupted over the centuries. In many ways, the (cooking) fire became extinguished and replaced by a troubled relationship with good and bad foods, and the rich diversity of female bodies got ruled by thinness and fatness concepts.
Mindful eating helps us to look deeply into the belly of the food system. How the current food system creates a world where human beings, and especially women, feel disconnected from their natural food resources and alienated from the real needs of their bodies. The fear word today is obesity, and fat is designated evil. Unfortunately, in a perverse interference with appetite, restraint is offered as the only righteous path by the food or diet industry.
Eating awareness starts by questioning the origins of food.
- Where is this food coming from and was it produced in a sustainable way? All kinds of foods, depending on one’s individual body and blueprint, will sit absolutely fine if they are made by real ingredients (real butter, cream or cheese, real flour, clean meat), instead of chemical-based long-shelf life foods.
- Did the people working on the field, the food production plants and distribution companies receive equal living wages compared with their male and/or white colleagues? Food justice also address racial and socio-economic issues because there is no equal access to healthy food without equal access to jobs, education and transportation.
- What kind of foods and recipes are rooted in your own cultural tradition? Opposed to the one-size-fits-all dietary rules certain health professionals are telling us, our eating behavior and food ways are not merely individual choices but expressions of a particular social and economic context. Sharing meals and eating heartwarming comfort foods (often high in calories!) have been part of our food history for centuries. These recipes and moments of social gathering around the table are especially important for families who migrated and are often the only remaining bond to their home country.
Food justice is weaved into the fabric of mindful eating. The spiritual practice of mindfulness meditation creates the link between sustainable planetary food choices and individual wellbeing. It is not just about changing the way we eat, it is changing the way we live and how we want to treat each other.
Caroline Baerten Belgium