Contributing Author: Katie Howell
On World Social Justice Day on February 20, Food Tank is celebrating the resilience of organizations that are working to promote a more just food system. With a focus on participation and inclusivity, these groups use food justice to empower communities to control how they grow, distribute, access, and eat food.
The following 24 organizations are using education and community collaboration platforms to advocate for communities’ rights to healthy, culturally appropriate, and resilient food systems.
1. Agriculture Justice Project (AJP), United States and Canada
Working directly with farms and food businesses, AJP provides technical training and raises awareness of injustices in the agriculture system. AJP’s Food Justice Certification is in grocery stores nationwide, reflecting products produced by organizations operating under a high bar of social justice standards. The certification aims to bring transparency to the food system; led by stakeholder participation, AJP rates worker wages and conditions, farmer contracts, and the rights of all people involved in each ingredient used in the product sold. Through this label, the organization hopes to create a conversation about justice standards. AJP has been recommended by the Fair World Project, has won an award for equity in agriculture, and has given farming communities a voice by participating in public comments on national policies.
2. Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, Africa
AFSA is a pan-African alliance made up of farmers, NGOs, consumer movements, and international organizations working together to champion family farming and indigenous knowledge. Recognizing African driven solutions will be the answer to problems in Africa, AFSA promotes food sovereignty and advocates for agroecology in climate policy. AFSA serves as a platform to unite the voices of farmers, indigenous peoples, and environmentalists to influence policy and mobilize communities to fight for their rights to land and seed. The organization launched the Agroecology for Climate Action Campaign in 2019 and regularly publishes policy briefing papers, reports, and videos to incorporate African perspectives into the dialogue around food sovereignty.
3. Australia Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), Australia
AFSA, an Australian-wide farmer-led organization, serves as a platform to exchange resources and ideas. AFSA operates a legal defense fund to help small-scale farmers navigate federal requirements and fight against discriminatory regulation. To emphasize the importance of local knowledge, AFSA maintains a Fair Food Forum and publishes research to connect people across the regenerative agriculture movement. Recently AFSA has released a book highlighting practices of small-scale farmers.
4. Bangladesh Resource Center for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK), Bangladesh
BARCIK emphasizes the need to incorporate local and indigenous knowledge in development initiatives. By sharing research and resources—including training on using traditional methods to mitigate the climate crisis and regular journal publications that serve as practical tips for field workers—BARCIK helps marginalized communities actively participate in decision-making. Additionally, BARCIK operates seven schools across the country, providing youth education centers for communities the government-run education initiatives have missed. The organization is also working towards creating an Institute for Applied Studies to serve as a resource center based on community knowledge and contribution. BARCIK maintains a news site to share research and promote community-led projects that empower communities to effectively lead their sustainable growth.
5. Bread for the City (BFC), United States
Based in Washington, D.C., Bread for the City works with low-income families to develop the power to determine their own futures. BFC provides education programs, hosts farmers’ markets and food pantries, and grows its own produce. BFC has made community empowerment through advocacy and education its core program. In 2019, BFC served over 8,000 residents, was recognized as a Champion for Healthy Eating, and successfully represented the voice of the community to inspire the Department of Health Services to change an insensitive SNAP campaign.
6. Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC), United States
Striving to unite low- to moderate-income Black residents in Central Brooklyn, BMC is building a “solidarity economy”—an economic framework grounded in cooperation, equity, and value of individual experiences. Using leadership training, journalism, and campaign organizing, BMC works on issues determined by the communities. One of these is establishing food sovereignty through a community-led co-operative, The Central Brooklyn Food Co-op. BMC also regularly updates resources for residents to improve access to community agricultural programs.
7. Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFed), United States and Canada
CoFed is a student-led organization working to help young people of color establish food and land co-ops that reflect the values of racial justice. As a platform for student leaders to collaborate, CoFed is hoping to give young people the tools to practice collective liberalization. CoFed publishes annual cooperative growth curriculums and start-up guides, supporting the development of 12 new equity-focused programs in the past few years. Since 2011, they have trained more than 600 new leaders and partnered with multiple organizations across the United States and Canada to work towards a more just food system.
8. Diyalo Foundation, Nepal
The Diyalo Foundation is a grassroots organization that works to use education as a driving force to improve agriculture. Partnering with the Nepalese government and local communities, the Foundation builds schools, as well as provides assistance in curriculum development, to create a self-sustaining rural education system. In each school, there is an emphasis on horticulture and gardening so that students can share their knowledge with their families and friends, building a more sustainable community agriculture system. Through these schools and programs, the Foundation estimates to have helped educate almost 6,000 people.
9. Food First, United States
Through research, education, and action, Food First works to support communities fighting for food justice and food sovereignty. Also known as the Institute for Food and Development Policy, Food First consolidates the analyses of activist-researchers around the globe to give communities the resources they need to build their local food systems. Covering a wide range of topics—U.S. food justice, aid trade and development, labor in the food system, agroecology, land and resources, and the green revolution—Food First publishes books, reports, documentaries, and policy briefs. Additionally, the organization has worked directly with groups in Mexico, Mali, and California to develop farmer education materials, as well as helped create the Oakland, C.A. food policy council.
10. Front Line Farming, United States
A farmer’s food and advocacy group, Front Line Farming works in Front Range farming communities in Colorado. With a specific focus on women and people of color, Front Line strives to create a system based on food justice. Front Line Farming operates four acres of urban farmland and offers educational programs to equip marginalized farmers with the ability to start their own operations. To further promote the local food system, they also host farm-to-table dinner series and offer special interest classes such as beekeeping and herbalism. Two Front Line leaders serve on the Denver Mayor’s Advisory Council for Sustainable Food and the organization has participated in efforts to attract young people to agriculture.
11. Harlem Grown, United States
Recognizing that habits start young, Harlem Grown hopes to introduce food justice practices to New York City’s youth. The organization provides workshops, summer camps, and mentorship programs to serve the community’s young people. In collaboration with volunteers and partner schools, they have turned vacant spaces across the community into 12 productive urban farm sites. The farm sites are able to transform neighborhoods; the produce grown at these farms, gardens, and greenhouses is distributed to community members, local restaurants, and used in nutritional education programs. Harlem Grown conducts educational farm tours for elementary and middle schoolers, promoting sustainability and healthy eating through hands-on experience. Additionally, the sites are a way to divert food waste, estimated to have turned over 9,071 kilograms (20,000 pounds) of food into compost this year.
12. HEAL Food Alliance, United States
HEAL serves as a platform to build collective power that advocates for a fair food system. Led by member organizations, HEAL amplifies the experiences of frontline communities who are affected by the current system. To achieve a vision of transformative change, the organization’s programs focus on three areas: growing community power, developing political leadership, and exposing harmful policies and power structures. Among these programs, HEAL launched a School of Political Leadership to connect activists, farmers, educators, and organizers to build solidarity in community resistance to policies favoring large-scale agriculture. Additionally, HEAL’s Good Food Purchasing Program encourages transparency in the public food procurement process, providing governments a framework for choosing healthy foods produced sustainably and ethically. HEAL has grown to represent 2 million stakeholders in the food system and has won James Beard Leadership Awards.
13. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), International
IATP combines research and on the ground policy development projects to encourage solutions that benefit family farmers and rural communities. Headquartered in Minnesota, the organization has been able to utilize its proximity to farming communities and civic engagement to test new policy ideas to later replicate around the globe. With focus issues including trade, community food systems, and climate change, IATP publishes research papers, articles, and reports. Additionally, IATP consolidates resources pertaining to specific, time-relevant topics, such as the renewal of the U.S. Farm Bill and NAFTA renegotiations, to help those affected understand potential policy implications. The organization maintains a China Food Watch portal highlighting groups advocating for a sustainable Chinese food system, is a leader in the Farm to Institution movement bringing local food to schools and health or government institutions, and hosts Rural Climate Dialogues to empower communities to contribute to climate and development policy.
14. Inter-faith Food Shuttle, United States
The Inter-faith Food Shuttle works to address food insecurity across seven counties in North Carolina. In combination with direct food donation, they emphasize empowering people to build resilient, self-sufficient communities. The Food Shuttle offers urban agriculture education and learning gardens, culinary apprenticeships, and health and nutrition education programs. The Food Shuttle estimates over 6,000 community members were involved in health education programs, 74 educators learned to incorporate food programming into their curriculums, and over 1,500 people participated in urban agriculture initiatives in 2019.
15. La Via Campesina, International
La Via Campesina is a coalition of 182 organizations across 81 countries fighting for the rights of small farmers. The organization coined the term food sovereignty in 1996 and has since been a leader in promoting agrarian reform, the peoples’ right to land and seed, and democratic decisionmaking. Grounded in solidarity, La Via Campesina gives voice to grassroots peasants’ organizations by holding international conferences, participating in rallies and social justice events, and publishing reports on their achievements. The organization has gained international attention through its mobilization efforts; in 2018 the United Nations adopted the Declaration of Rights of Peasants and Other Working Peoples in Rural Areas and the movement has received multiple awards, including the International Human Rights Award and the Navarra International Prize for Solidarity.
16. Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), United States
LA CAN works to give a voice to low-income residents of Downtown and South-Central L.A. In addition to legal clinics and leadership training, the organization’s programs promote a just food system. LA CAN emphasizes the impact of healthy food access, nutrition education, anti-hunger policies, and urban agriculture on quality of life. Through rooftop gardens, weekly markets, and a People’s Medicine Project calls for growing communities by growing food, LA CAN works to give residents control over their food system.
17. Planting Justice, United States
Planting Justice empowers communities to heal and cultivate economic justice through skill building and providing a resource network. Planting Justice teaches gardening skills to people while in prison and offers them paid positions after release. Through private and public landscaping projects, education programs, and a land trust, Planting Justice brings the Oakland community together over food. Planting Justice has planted over 500 gardens in the Bay Area, offered reentry employment opportunities to over 40 people, and helped people reconnect with the land.
18. Rock Steady Farm & Flowers, United States
A women- and queer-owned cooperative, Rock Steady Farm & Flowers uses sustainable agricultural practices and community partnerships to advocate for diverse communities in the food system. In addition to florists and restaurants around New York, Rock Steady Farm & Flowers provides food to food pantries, social justice nonprofits, and a local social justice resource center. The organization partners with LGBTQ resource centers to show support for the underrepresented queer community and a local organization providing job training and support for youth in New York.
19. SeedChange, Canada
SeedChange is working to fight for farmers’ rights to fair wages, land, and seeds around the globe. Through partnerships with nonprofits, they support over 30,000 small-scale farmers to restore degraded lands, share seeds, and start businesses. Their projects serve to connect farmers, discover new agroecological practices, fund partners’ work, and advocate for supportive policies. In recent years, SeedChange has helped farmers revitalize land in Burkina Faso and has given a platform to individuals working towards a more sustainable local food system.
20. Soil Generation, United States
Soil Generation is a Black- and Brown-led coalition with a vision for a people’s agroecology”—a combination of environmental and food justice with a focus on community self-representation, education, and advocacy. The Philadelphia-based network provides project assistance, anti-racism and oppression training, and legal support. These initiatives help organize community voices to influence city policies regarding land rights and urban agriculture. Soil Generation has successfully worked with the city council to amend a bill that would have put urban gardens at risk and continues to actively campaign for rights to vacant lots.
21. Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON), United States
SAAFON works to strengthen the collective power of Black family farms in the Southeast U.S. Representing farmers across ten states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, SAAFON aims to empower Black people by creating a land and food justice movement. SAAFON has created a land database and land trust; conducts farmer needs surveys; and offers agroecology and safety certification programs. They have been recognized for helping fellow Black farmers cope with the effects of the Farm Bill and are an active member of a larger alliance working towards Black farmer empowerment.
22. Surplus People’s Project (SPP), South Africa
SPP is working to amplify the voices of the rural poor to inspire agrarian reform. Through research to inform policy and organizing networks to share local knowledge, SPP hopes to provide people the resources to encourage self-determination. SPP highlights the significance of land rights in community empowerment and pushes for agrarian reform in South Africa. Since aligning with social justice movements in 2000, SPP has hosted workshops to spread agroecological practices, supported local initiatives, and helped unite hundreds of farmers to fight for their land.
23. The Natwani Coalition, United States
Since 2004, the Natwani Coalition has been working to reclaim traditional farming practices. They promote the tribes’ traditional way of life as a way to empower and improve upon the overall health and well-being of the Hopi and Tewa people. The Natwani Coalition programs include youth education, food symposiums, grant-writing, and the Heirloom Seed Initiative—which reinforces the value of preserving the Hopi seed, one that has sustained generations of Hopi people with its dense nutritional value and tolerance to droughts and arid environments. The coalition’s work to connect culture, sovereignty, and food has been recognized by multiple food publications.
24. We Are The Solution (WTS), Africa
WTS is a network of women farmers reaching across seven West African nations. With support from international organizations, including Grassroots International and the Agroecology Fund, WTS promotes policies that benefit local farmers rather than large-scale agribusiness. By training community leaders to learn sustainable methods and understand certain policy implications, WTS hopes to unite the voices of small-scale farmers so that policymakers pay attention. Recently, WTS has provided training that offers alternatives to fossil fuel-based farming techniques and has opened field schools and demonstration gardens to promote rural communities’ needs.