By Anna Mullen, Communications Intern

What does it mean for food to be just? And what factors must be considered in cultivating food justice? These questions were on the table at Just Food? A Forum on Justice in the Food System, recently held in Cambridge, Mass. Hosted by the Harvard University Food Law Society and Food Better Initiative, the event brought together activists, scholars and practitioners to explore the complex legal, political, health and environmental aspects of building a just food system.

Food justice is interconnected with many other social justice causes, including farmworkers rights, racial justice and the environment. This multidimensional understanding of food justice requires that a plurality of voices be included in creating our vision of a just food system. Indeed, food is everyone’s issue, because everyone eats! Therefore, everyone has a hand in cultivating food justice.

So, what’s the role of the farm to school movement in helping create a more just food system?

  • Farm to school educates the next generation of conscious eaters: As Dr. Molly Anderson reminded listeners in her keynote address, the road to food justice is long, and will require years of activism. Farm to school is working today to help educate the next generation of food advocates. In classrooms, school gardens and cafeterias, more than 23.5 million students are engaged in farm to school across the country. By teaching kids about where food comes from – who grows food, how it is harvested, how to prepare delicious meals – farm to school is cultivating conversations about just food among our nation’s youngest eaters.
  • Farm to school builds a spirit of inclusivity: Food is a bridge between people, communities and cultures – everybody eats! As a panelist at Just Food, Sunny Young, our Mississippi State Lead, shared how Good Food for Oxford Schools has partnered with other local organizations and churches to make healthy food a community affair. Their annual Gospel Choir Showcase in front of Oxford City Hall features local gospel music, dancing, healthy food samples and farm to school presentations from students and staff. The event brings the wider Oxford community together to celebrate the connections between the farm and their forks. Creative community collaboration can bring food change from the classroom out into the streets, and even to the steps of City Hall.
  • Farm to school can connect all students to healthy, local food: Many of our nation’s children eat two of their meals at school every day, so what better place to level the playing field on access to good food? Our Policy Associate, Natalie Talis, explained to the audience of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization workshop how the Farm to School Act of 2015 will expand and improve the popular USDA Farm to School Grant Program to reach more schools nationwide. And not only more schools, but also more preschools; critically important summer food service sites; after school programs; tribal schools and producers; and beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Collectively, these programs offer millions of children access to healthy, local food, irrespective of race, socioeconomic status or geographic location. Farm to school can connect all students to good food, and Congress has an opportunity to expand the programs supporting these efforts with the Farm to School Act.
  • Farm to school supports small farmers: Student presenters from The Food Project emphasized that we need small-scale farmers in our communities to help know our food. Farmers make great food educators, and they’re also valuable contributors to local economies. Farm to school activities open the doors to an institutional market that spent an estimated $385 million on local food for schools during the 2011-2012 school year. Furthermore, farm to school facilitates farmer-community relationships, diverse markets and encourages grower cooperatives. It’s a win for farmers and the communities they help feed.

The National Farm to School Network is bound together by the vision that vibrant local and regional food systems are essential to the health of our children, farms, environment, economy and communities. It’s a vision that we believe is integral to the work of food justice. Join us.