Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability

Published by: The MIT Press
Release Date: October 21, 2011
Pages: 404
ISBN13: 978-0262516327
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, The MIT Press


Popularized by such best-selling authors as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser, a growing food movement urges us to support sustainable agriculture by eating fresh food produced on local family farms. But many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been systematically deprived of access to healthy and sustainable food. These communities have been actively prevented from producing their own food and often live in “food deserts” where fast food is more common than fresh food. Cultivating Food Justice describes their efforts to envision and create environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives to the food system.

Bringing together insights from studies of environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, critical race theory, and food studies, Cultivating Food Justice highlights the ways race and class inequalities permeate the food system, from production to distribution to consumption. The studies offered in the book explore a range of important issues, including agricultural and land use policies that systematically disadvantage Native American, African American, Latino/a, and Asian American farmers and farmworkers; access problems in both urban and rural areas; efforts to create sustainable local food systems in low-income communities of color; and future directions for the food justice movement. These diverse accounts of the relationships among food, environmentalism, justice, race, and identity will help guide efforts to achieve a just and sustainable agriculture.


“Race, class, and history aren’t foodie strong-points. Yet to turn the food movement into one that fully embraces justice, some difficult discussions lie ahead. The chapters in this splendid and rigorously researched book will help those conversations be better informed, and their outcomes wiser.”
Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing

“The insights, critiques, and guidance presented in this book are timely and profound. Cultivating Food Justice offers a powerful analysis of the dominant food systems in the United States and of the largely white, middle-class alternative food movement that has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. On nearly every page of this book, the contributors share seldom heard stories of ordinary people organizing to produce healthy, sustainable, affordable, and culturally appropriate sustenance for all. Most important, the authors demonstrate that food justice and environmental justice are inseparable.”
David Naguib Pellow, Don A. Martindale Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota; author of Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago; coauthor of The Slums of Aspen: Immigrants versus the Environment in America’s Eden

“At a time when food politics are omnipresent and as urgent as ever, this collection delivers a stellar cast and bold set of ideas that weigh in on not just intellectually interesting questions, but also some of the most pressing issues facing people in their everyday struggles. It is a must-read for anybody interested in food politics and environmental justice.”
Nik Heynen, Department of Geography and Center for Integrative Conservation Research (CICR), University of Georgia

“The diversity of theoretical and conceptual approaches, subjects, and authors is refreshing. The dimensions of ethnic identity, racism, and white privilege as they affect the access and control of food-producing resources is highlighted and suggests important new directions in theorizing the political ecology of food and agriculture. …The blend of academic and activist chapters provides a good mix of theory, strategy, and tactics.”
Annals of the Association of American Geographers

“The answers to our food system ills are not found simply in opposition to our current food system; community solutions that incorporate racial justice, from production to consumption, are required. I could not agree more. As facilitators of community building, planners have a responsibility to fill in the gaps in representation at the food movement “table” and understand the history of those coming (or not coming) to such a table. The insights in this book provide a foundation and direction for food system planners.”
Jill K. Clark, Journal of Planning Education and Research

Cultivating Food Justice covers important ground previously lacking in food studies and movements, particularly with regard to critical theorizing about race, class, ethnicity, sustainability, and food access, thereby expanding understandings of food justice as both a field of scholarly inquiry and fruitful activism.”
American Studies

“The case studies and theoretical discussions presented in this volume provide very useful insights for food activists, farmers, consumers, and policy-makers regarding the political, economic, and social processes that have influenced our global food system and its related class and racial injustices.”
Rachel S. Madsen, Agriculture and Human Values