LaDonna Redmond, this week’s Food Hero, is a food justice activist in who was inspired to fight for a fairer food system after facing limited access to healthy, organic food in her Chicago community. Earlier this year, at a TEDx Manhattan event, she described the challenges she faced:
“[…] I wanted to get the healthiest food that I could for [my son]. I wanted food that was free from genetically modified organisms. I wanted food that was free from pesticides. I wanted food, basically, that was grown healthy [sic], organically…But that food – the best food – was not available in my neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago.”
Redmond first became involved in food advocacy when her son was diagnosed with a number of food allergies at a young age, and she soon discovered that healthy food that would accommodate his condition was hard to come by in her community. To facilitate her community’s access to fresh, healthy, pesticide- and GMO-free food, she launched an initiative converting vacant lots into urban farms. Residents of the neighborhood all pitched in to build a healthier local food system.
Redmond’s food activism, however, has come to address more than just how access to food affects her son – she also raises awareness of how it affects the health of a community by contributing to a wide variety of threats, from gang violence to noncommunicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
In April 2013, Redmond launched the Campaign for Food Justice Now (CFJN) is an organization that, in its own words, “applies race, class and gender” to the food system. It confronts underlying themes of social justice within the food movement through community-based solutions, promoting social change, and engaged advocacy.
Redmond says, “Food justice is not just about nutrition.” CFJN looks at food justice and the reform of the agriculture system in a broader social, political, and historical context. Food Justice 2.0 is about weaving issues of race and class into the food movement, discussing colonialism, manifest destiny, and the use of food as a weapon.
Named a Responsibility Pioneer in 2009 by Time Magazine, Redmond was also awarded the Green for All Fellowship in 2007. She also was a 2003-2005 IATP Food and Society Fellow. In 2011, she became a Senior Program Associate in Food and Justice at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
In her TEDxManhattan talk, Redmond affirms, “There has never been a fair, just, or healthy food system in the United States of America.” To build a just food system, CFJN brings everyone—all races and classes—to the table.