At a recent event hosted by Spelman College and Food Tank, speakers discussed methods of resisting the current food system and reclaiming and preserving the black lands and roots of the African diaspora.
Speakers highlighted a number of the food system’s most pressing challenges, including racism against black farmers in the United States. According to Tracy McCurty, executive director of the Black Belt Justice Center, one of the most important steps the US government can take is to forgive black farmers’ debt.
The United States Department of Agriculture reports that approximately 14% of farmers in 1920 were black. In 2017, the number fell to less than 2 percent as black farmers faced decades of discriminatory lending practices, land theft and crippling debt. A “relic of the plantation economy,” McCurty says this debt continues to be used as a “racialized tool of oppression.”
“[To] restore black farmland and have thriving farms, we need land, we need access to land…[and] we must eradicate the debt.
Speakers also discussed the importance of leveraging data and technology to address challenges, including the climate emergency and the public health crisis fueled by diet-related chronic diseases.
“We have 100 months to reduce global emissions by 40%,” says Julia Collins, CEO and Founder of Planet FWD. With her company, she uses available data to help the private sector become carbon neutral.
But Collins also argues that consumers have an important role to play. She encourages individuals to demand companies reduce their carbon footprint while becoming what she calls climatearians, people whose food and lifestyle decisions are informed by their impact on the environment. .
And Riana Lynn, founder of Journey Foods, uses her business to help all communities eat better. “We need to create something healthier, tastier, accessible and affordable,” says Lynn.
She also advocates for health practitioners to broaden their notions of healthy eating, beyond Eurocentric diets, and embrace the concept of food as medicine. “I became an entrepreneur because we need to create better food,” says Lynns. “But our doctors have to be prepared to learn through different mediums, to learn outside of medical school in order to practice.”
Building on this idea of collaboration, multidisciplinary artist and cultural curator Gabrielle EW Carter calls for centering inclusive and community-based solutions. “That’s how we solve problems: we get together and make sure we identify the real problem.”
Without this approach, she says, “so much can be lost.” But to get it right, it is essential that defenders partner with their communities before taking action. “You have to know your community so that it will rally around you.”
Watch the full event here:
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Photo courtesy of USDA