Balance to the Food Justice Scales

I recently attended a lecture at an unnamed old university in Cambridge. (Thoreau dismissed a degree from that school, writing, “Let every sheep keep its skin.”) The professor’s topic was social justice and food activism. One of the messages was that nonprofit hunger relief missions, like ours at Gaining Ground, are misguided and ultimately ineffective. The corollary message was that real change to our agricultural production system and our economic and food inequality will only come from deep policy and structural changes.

Well, it was a little like being told your kid is ugly. But a grudging recognition settled in that profound political change will be necessary to diminish the disparities that threaten our social fabric. It hardly needs stating that this kind of change will not come easily. So, there will continue to be a purpose for hunger relief organizations like Gaining Ground and the many food pantries, meal programs, and food recovery programs we partner with. Those we serve need to survive in the world we have while the world we hope for emerges.

We will continue to work hard growing more healthy organic produce. This year, we will likely distribute more than 75,000 pounds. This tripling our harvest over the past six years stems from increased investment–soil amendments, an irrigation system, a deer fence–and innovations driven by our farm manager. Our healthy produce provides immediate hunger relief and, we hope, some balance to the food justice scales. We also hope we can inspire our many volunteers, more than 2,500 in 2017, to be active in bringing about the systemic change to diminish the inequities that threaten our society.