Food justice has emerged as a powerful social movement across the USA as well as an increasingly studied academic concept. In many circumstances, the food justice movement operates to reject the neoliberal mechanisms that dominate today’ s food system, but simultaneously needs to operate within this system (to a degree) in order to exist. The movement’ s engagement with larger neoliberal structures, such as the increasingly consolidated transnational food retail industry, can lead to it being co-opted. For instance, selective patronage campaigns focused on the local scale may create market mechanisms that are alternative to those of the conventional market by circumventing intermediaries, but they operate along similar lines of logic that fetishize the commoditization of food for profit.
“Youth are prominent in the food justice movement today. This isn’t just because they are ‘included’ as afterthoughts to existing projects and programs. They lead and have their own, independent voice.” (Steel 2010). Many food justice organizations, sustainable farming projects or garden based education initiatives are connected to youth development programs. As children and young adults have become increasingly disconnected from their food sources, and as obesity and Type II diabetes become increasingly prevalent in young people, these programs provide a host of benefits for the participants and communities involved. Further, more than just participants along for the ride, young people have demonstrated tremendous initiative and leadership within just and sustainable food movements. However, considering that the food justice movement has touted itself as a diverse, inclusive movement where everyone may have a seat at the table, youth voices have been relatively absent from the food policy discourse.
“Feminist social scientists use the term positionality to refer to the understanding that our lived experiences, particularly those of race, class, and gender, shape our worldviews. The food movement narrative is largely created by, and resonates most deeply, with white and middle class individuals. For example, Michael Pollan’s recently offered list of food rules (2007) is intended to guide consumers toward eating practices aligned with the food movement.