In the United States and beyond, organizing efforts for food system transformation are centering on justice, for food system sustainability is contingent on the fair treatment of every person involved. While various definitions of food justice exist, the basic principle is that the food system should not exploit people or the land; instead, it should be wholly inclusive and equitable, working for the health of people, animals, and environment.
Whether fighting for family farmers to keep and sustain their land, or ensuring access to healthy foods to those previously denied affordable nourishment – there is much work to be done to right historical wrongs.
Listed here are 20 organizations around the world expanding our vision of food justice and pursuing palpable changes in the structure of our food system:
- Agricultural Justice Project – AJP develops and distributes the Food Justice Certified label, which ensures that all workers and farmers from farm to fork are treated and compensated fairly. Operating on the principle that “transparency = trust”, AJP is bringing the international fair trade program to the U.S. context, setting the bar with high standards for food system transformation.
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers – Recently profiled in the feature-length film Food Chains, the CIW has been organizing since 1993 for farmworker justice, starting with tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida. Along with growing high-profile campaigns, they launched the Alliance for Fair Food, a network of people working in solidarity with CIW. Their Fair Food Program (est. 2011) is a model for worker-driven social responsibility for participating retailers, with wins from 14 buyers so far, including McDonald’s and Walmart.
- Community to Community Development – With a deeply participatory and democratic organizational structure, Community to Community Development is led by women of color to advance immigrant rights and food sovereignty. Based out of Washington State, C2C engages in projects to empower communities through participatory democracy and movement building for food justice.
- Familias Unidas por la Justicia – This collection of farmworkers’ primary focus is a boycott of Driscoll’s and Sakuma berries (provider for Driscoll’s), until the Sakuma brothers provide the opportunity to negotiate a contract to ensure fair treatment and wages. This ongoing dispute is an attempt to make up for years of experiencing wage theft, poverty wages, hostile working conditions, and unattainable production standards.
- Farm Aid – Starting in 1985 as a benefit concert with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young, Farm Aid now works year-round to keep family farmers thriving on their land across the United States. The annual music and food festival provides funds for 24/7 access to resources farmers need, supporting nonprofits, and ongoing advocacy, totaling to over US$50 million over the past 30 years.
- Food First – Also known as the Institute for Food and Development Policy, Food First provides research and analysis that works to eliminate injustices that cause hunger. Their approach since 1975 has been to work alongside social movements, which focuses their research on the needs of farmers and their communities instead of the corporate food industry.
- Food Chain Worker’s Alliance – Operating as a coalition of worker-led organizations, FCWA alliance works for improved conditions and wages for workers across the food chain, at every stage from harvest to transport, and preparation to serving. Based out of L.A., FCWA has represented hundreds of thousands of workers – and growing – since 2009.
- Food Empowerment Project – FEP believes in the creation of a more just and sustainable world through the power of food. A vegan food justice organization based in California, FEP engages in activism that ties together the struggles of underpaid workers, abused animals, and depleted natural resources as one cause for food justice.
- Land Loss Prevention Project – A Durham, NC based organization, LLPP has been advocating for and supporting farmers in crisis since 1983. The project started as a group of Black lawyers providing legal assistance, in response to inordinate losses of Black owned land in North Carolina. Litigation, public policy engagement, and promotion of sustainable agriculture now comprise LLPP’s activities to keep land in the hands of minorities.
- Migrant Justice – Migrant Justice is based out of Burlington, VT, where community members have gathered since 2009 to build the power of farmworkers organizing for economic justice and human rights. They are committed to collective solutions to shared problems in the food system, with several legislative wins and ongoing Milk with Dignity campaign.
- National Black Farmers Association – John W. Boyd, Jr., third generation farmer determined to save his farm from foreclosure, started the National Black Farmers Association in 1995. Black farmers have been historically denied subsidies, loans, and other services from the USDA that escalated black land loss, so the NBFA works to ensure black farmers can now access these services, along with education and advocacy on civil rights, land retention, and rural development. NBFA worked closely on the Pigford v. Glickman class action discrimination suit to ultimately win the US$2 billion settlement for black farmers across the nation.
- National Farmers Union – National Farmers Union has operated with a grassroots model since its founding in Texas in 1902. With divisions in 33 states, NFU now aims to improve the well-being of family farmers, fishers, ranchers and rural communities across the country, through policy advocacy for co-operative rights, fair market access, and more.
- National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association – NLFRTA started in Washington, D.C. in 2004 to ensure the full inclusion of Latino farmers in public policy discussions, in response to an absence of Latino voices. Through facilitating meetings with elected officials, educational outreach, forums, and more, NLFRTA is committed to the longevity of Latino producers throughout the United States and beyond.
- Real Food Challenge – Real Food Challenge encompasses the national student movement to leverage university purchasing power in support of a just and sustainable food system. This student activist network is committed to envisioning the future of the movement for food justice, starting by shifting $1 billion to support local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources (i.e. “real food”) by 2020.
- Rural Coalition – This alliance of farmers, farmworkers, indigenous, migrant and working people from rural areas is also one of the most diverse of rural groups. A deeply grassroots driven organization, Rural Coalition is based out of Washington, D.C. to impact federal policies relevant to rural people, particularly the Farm Bill.
- Rural Advancement Foundation International – RAFI – RAFI supports socially just and environmentally sound farming through advocating for market access and relevant policies, and providing education and assistance to farmers. An international organization incorporated in 1990, much of their work focuses on farmers in the Southeastern United States.
- ROPPA – Reseau Organisations Paysannes et des Producteurs Agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest // Network of Peasant Organizations and Producers in West Africa – Since 2000, ROPPA has fought for the interests of West African producers in policy discussions otherwise dominated by financial interests. ROPPA bridges the gap between policymakers and farmers, ensuring their place in the debate for funding, research, and technical assistant to support the producers they represent from 13 countries.
- Soul Fire Farm – Soul Fire Farm is a working farm in New York State, dedicated to ending racism and injustice in the food system by raising life-giving food and training the next generation of activist-farmers who will quite literally grow the movement. Sharing skills in sustainable agriculture with diverse audiences, the farm supports many immersions, apprenticeships, and retreats, and classes, as well as international solidarity in food sovereignty.
- United Farm Workers – The “original” union for food justice, United Farm Workers of America was founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962. As the nation’s first successful and largest farm workers union, UFW continues to win union contracts with prominent operations and advocate for policy protections for farmworkers – most recently, with historic expansion of overtime pay in California (AB 1066 passed California legislature Aug 29 – Gov. Brown still needs to sign into law)
- Via Campesina – La Via Campesina is the international peasant’s movement, born in 1993. The movement defends the foremost values of their members, encompassing “small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers,” from 69 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. La Via Campesina fights for their ability and right to make decisions about lands, territories, water, seeds, livestock and biodiversity in the interest of health and sustainability.