By Helen Dombalis, NFSN Executive Director
Racism is older than our country, and it’s long past time we change it. I, like many of you, have been grieving over the senseless murders of Black Americans for no other reason than the color of their skin. As a white woman in America, I know I would have walked away with my life while George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many other Black Americans leave in body bags. I also know that I have a responsibility as the Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network and as a white woman in a position of privilege to not just be an ally for equity but an active participant in the fight for justice. We cannot stand by while Black people continue to lose their lives to police violence and racism.
My values and our collective vision at the National Farm to School Network support a food system centered on justice, and we know that we cannot achieve food justice if we're not willing to do racial justice work.
Our current food system is a legacy of exploitation and racism - land stolen from Native people, a US agricultural empire built on the backs of enslaved Africans, today’s farmworkers being predominantly underpaid immigrant and migrant Latinx workers, and many of the school food professionals that feed our kids being Women of Color who earn less than a living wage. Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color and Immigrants are the backbone of our food system and ensure we can eat. They’re also a constant target of racist acts and violence.
If you are White, saying you are not racist is not enough. Institutional racism and structural racism are at play in our communities, destroying the fabric of human good, and we must dismantle this. Children of Color participating in school meal programs have been publicly shamed when they lack the funds to pay for their meals. Black and Latinx youth have substantially higher rates of obesity than their white peers, as do Indigenous youth. Our national policies do not equitably commit resources to feeding our children, our future. People of Color are disproportionately represented on the frontlines of COVID-19 response and in our food system as essential workers, and are dying at higher rates due to the prevalence of underlying health conditions - a direct result of systemic inequities in access to healthy food options, health care and safe working conditions. And in the case of police brutality and murder, People of Color are killed by police at higher per capita rates than White people. Structural racism allows these sobering statistics to become normalized, accepted and perpetuated.
Personally, as a mother, I am constantly fighting cultural racism, where Whiteness is idolized in books, movies, dolls and toys, undervaluing and dehumanizing People of Color. My daughter and I discuss how all people hope for our future, need the same love, and feel the same pain.
I am committed to leading the National Farm to School Network as an anti-racist organization. As a predominantly White-led organization, we cannot be silent allies. There is no food justice without racial justice. The lives of all Black people who have lost their lives to violence and racism matter. National Farm to School Network stands in support of those demanding police reform and justice, and I want you to stand with us. Speak up, act boldly and demand justice.
On an individual level, here are things we can all do:
- Speak up and speak out when you encounter racist acts, in any form.
- Donate to support anti-racists organizations and movements.
- Support BIPOC-owned businesses in your community.
- Read, read, read.
- Make phone calls and demand action from your representatives.
Racism will not stop, nor will our children and our future be more peaceful and something we’re proud of, unless we take action. #BlackLivesMatter.#DemandJustice.