Food justice means that everyone has access to healthy food. Unfortunately, the present day reality is that there is a big disparity between the kind of food that low-income and privileged communities get to eat.
I am constantly having conversations with my 7-year old son in an effort to make him aware of how lucky he is to get to eat fresh food–pretty much right from the farm. On account of being young, he does not understand how privileged he is. However, I have these talks with him anyway because one day he will have a deep understanding of what food justice is, know how to make healthy food choices, and hopefully be involved with food justice in some capacity as well.
I am currently volunteering for an organization called Cooking Matters, where I get the opportunity to teach cooking classes and nutrition to kids from low-income communities. However, one of the easiest ways in which I support food justice is by buying food from local farmers at my farmers’ market, direct from the farm through CSA boxes, and at my local natural food grocery store. It is my way of “casting my vote” on a daily basis. As such, when I’m baking or cooking I mostly use local, organic, and seasonal ingredients when ever possible.
For example, I buy my eggs from Riverdog Farm. The eggs are from pastured chickens and the yolks have a deep yellow-orange hue–evidence of a happy chicken that gets to roam around lush grounds.
Riverdog’s eggs are so awesome that during the winter months when they are in short supply (because their chickens are not forced by other industrial methods to lay more than is natural during that time) there is a long line of people standing by the Riverdog stand at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market before the it even opens. Sometimes they have to institute a one-dozen per person limit, and they will still run out 15 minutes after the market has started. For a great discussion on pasture raised eggs, check out Soul Food Farm’s brief article on pasture raised vs. cage free eggs here.
My butter comes from Spring Hill Cheese Co., In Petaluma California, where the Jersey cows are pasture raised. This results in not only healthy butter due to the omega 3s imparted to the cow from the grass (because a cow’s natural diet is grass and not corn and soy), but rich and creamy high butter-fat butter. Perfect for baking! I tend to stock up on butter and freeze it since it can loose its freshness fairly quickly and pick up flavors from other food in the fridge.
I get organic flour from the Central Milling Company in bulk from Costco, and other flours, e.g., pastry flour, bread flour, etc., and organic cane sugar in bulk from the Natural Grocery Company, which sells organic produce and other organic and natural foods. They are a local business and employee owned, so I really like to support them as much as possible. I also really like to use King Arthur’s organic bread flour and their cake flour since they have a quality product and commit to being non-GMO (genetically modified).
All of the meat that I use in my cooking is sourced from local farms as well. I really like to get my meat from the Berkeley farmers’ market, The Natural Grocery Company, and The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, which specializes in local, humane, and sustainable pastured meat. A great article detailing this trend can be found in the New York Times here.
Full Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with these organizations/companies, nor do I receive any benefits by mentioning them on my blog. I like to mention them, because they are examples of the folks doing the kind of food justice work in my community (some outside my community as well) that I like to support (thus, my Baker With a Cause angle).
My hope is to encourage you to seek out and support these kind of sources for your own baking and cooking needs. I’m also sensitive to the fact that there is a higher monetary cost involved with supporting these sources that some cannot afford to make. However, there is also a health cost involved when we choose highly processed and fast foods. As such, it’s important to do what you can whenever possible, e.g., possibly choose organic or pesticide free strawberries over conventionally grown ones since they are heavily sprayed and penetrate through the skin. These beauties below are actually January strawberries from Swanton Berry Farm (100% union labor), which was a record year for them. Normally strawberries are done by November.
You can definitely make all of the recipes in this blog without the use of organic, local, and sustainable ingredients. However, my greatest hope is that one day quality food that is grown and raised in the best way possible, for us and our planet, will be accessible to all. Then people won’t even have to think about this at all and they can just eat!
Some examples of organizations in my community doing work to increase access to sustainable, organic, and local foods are: The People’s Grocery, an organization revitalizing West Oakland through food; The Berkeley Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice program, which gets wholesale fruits and veggies from farmers that sell at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, and then takes them into communities that have limited access to fresh produce; and Planting Justice, which is part of the urban farm movement teaching residents to turn urban spaces into gardens so they can have access to fresh produce straight from their own neighborhood farm.
If you are in the Bay Area, consider volunteering your time with some of these organizations. Or, if you are in an area that does not have these type of programs, perhaps you could be the one to organize and start it!