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El programa de justicia alimentaria de Michelle Wu para crear un Boston resiliente

Food touches our lives every single day, and it connects us to the broader systems that shape our world: the labor system that links farmworkers with truckers, dishwashers, and cafeteria workers; the economic system that lets some businesses thrive while shutting the door for others; the climate system that allows food crops to grow and sustains our ecosystems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how vulnerable we are to corporatized food chains that mistreat workers and the environment. So many of the most visible challenges of this crisis have been food system issues: empty grocery store shelves, vulnerable to inflexible international supply chains; devastating racial disparities in mortality rates, exacerbated by underlying diet-related chronic conditions; children going hungry at home, no longer able to get their daily calories from school meals; hundreds of people waiting in line at food banks, desperate for help feeding their families; restaurant doors shuttered, sending thousands of laid-off food chain workers in pursuit of unemployment benefits.

Long before the onset of the pandemic, food has been interwoven with the injustices that Boston residents experience everyday, from the parents whose unpredictable work schedules make it nearly impossible to plan, shop for, and cook healthy meals; to the children living with prediabetes whose food environments are flooded with ultra-processed food and devoid of fruits and vegetables; to the restaurant servers whose substandard wages cannot keep up with our city’s housing costs; to the diverse local businesses unable to compete with the handful of multinational corporations that have a stranglehold on our food supply chain.

But food can also be a force for justice – a common thread that binds us to one another and to our broader community. Food justice means affirming that consistent access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally relevant food is a universal human right; and it means enshrining the right to self-determination for communities to own and manage land for their own food provisioning.Food justice means social justice, dismantling the oppressive systems that undervalue our food chain workers, commodify our food supply, and threaten the stability of our climate. And food justice means racial justice, demanding a clear-eyed understanding of how white supremacy has shaped our food systems – nationally, and right here in Boston, where Black, Latinx, Indigenous and AAPI communities have not enjoyed equitable access to nutritious and culturally appropriate foods, good food jobs, economically vibrant neighborhoods, and the opportunity to thrive.

This Food Justice Plan outlines five areas where the City of Boston can make real progress towards a food system that is equitable, resilient, sustainable, and just:

Investing in Boston’s Food Chain Workers

A just and resilient food system requires a focus on labor rights for a healthy, supported workforce. Servers, cooks, dishwashers, cafeteria attendants, bartenders, grocery workers, farmers market managers, food hub coordinators, warehouse and delivery workers, food manufacturers and farmers, and more – keep our City running. But food chain workers are disproportionately low-wage workers, and they are more than twice as likely as the rest of the population to experience food insecurity. During the pandemic, these essential workers have experienced higher risk of infection, greater unemployment and financial instability, and a heavier mental health burden. As we work toward an equitable recovery, we must invest in our food chain workers and push for systemic change by:

  • Bringing workers’ voices to the negotiating table

  • Raising the minimum wage and establishing One Fair Wage

  • Guaranteeing safety net protections for all food chain workers

  • Offering fair and predictable scheduling

  • Ensuring paid sick and family leave

Supporting Boston’s restaurants and food economy

Small businesses are the backbone of Boston’s economy, serving as cultural hubs in our neighborhoods, economic engines for families across the city, and one of the most important ways to build wealth in our communities. We must reimagine our entire food system to combat disparities and fill food access gaps across our neighborhoods not only through our food pantries and hunger relief service organizations, but also with our neighborhood food infrastructure of bodegas, cafes, and other local food businesses. We can build Boston’s economic recovery to center local small businesses and restaurants, their workers, and the communities they serve by:

  • Stabilizing restaurant jobs and support home-grown food businesses

  • Building opportunity for Black-owned and other minority-owned restaurants

  • Connecting Boston’s independent restaurants with city, state and federal resources

  • Protecting independent restaurants and their workers from corporate predation

  • Reforming Boston’s planning and development process to sustain a diverse array of restaurants and food retailers

  • Supporting small-scale, independent food retail

Expanding Boston residents’ access to fresh, nutritious, affordable, and local food

Food justice means sustainability and climate action, public health, and racial equity. As the pandemic makes it harder for families to afford groceries, we are also learning how conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease – driven in part by diets and access to nutritious food - lead to worse health outcomes and COVID-19 impacts. Bold, progressive nutrition policy can connect communities with good food at prices they can afford. Our City’s food agenda can also bolster New England’s agricultural industry, preserving farmland that will provide ecosystem services for generations to come while reducing transportation emissions along our food supply chains. We can expand our residents’ access to fresh, nutritious, culturally appropriate, affordable, and – wherever possible – locally produced food by:

  • Fostering urban agriculture

  • Strengthening regional food system infrastructure, including farmers markets, CSAs, and small-scale food retail

  • Increasing Boston residents’ food purchasing power

Leveraging public procurement to drive broader food system change

As is often said, a budget is a statement of values – but so is a menu. Through its food purchasing power, Boston can commit to building a food system that truly serves the people. Boston’s food procurement practices help determine whether the food available to residents is nutritious and health-promoting, whether food purchasing builds wealth in local Boston communities, and whether that food is grown in regenerative agricultural systems that support our ecosystem health and climate stability. We can use the lever of municipal procurement to have immediate and direct impact on the well-being of residents, driving broader economic and social change by:

  • Fully implementing Good Food Purchasing ordinance within Boston Public Schools and other city agencies

  • Incentivizing the City’s anchor institutions to adopt Good Food Purchasing standards

Strengthening food system coalitions to pursue a food justice agenda

The City of Boston can show leadership by using existing levers of municipal power to transform our food system. But the fullest expression of food justice requires a broad and powerful coalition of advocates that can partner at the city-level and drive policy change at the state and federal level. For too long, powerful special interests have taken advantage of a fragmented food advocacy community to obstruct and delay the policy reforms we so desperately need. But the pandemic has demonstrated that when the need is great, our elected officials and institutions can be forced to act. To meet the scale of the challenges we face, Boston residents must organize, build diverse coalitions, and raise our collective voice in pursuit of an ambitious food justice agenda. The City can lay the groundwork for a community-led food justice movement by:

  • Diversifying and democratizing Boston Food Access Council membership

  • Forming new partnerships to broaden food system coalitions

  • Collecting data to monitor progress towards food system goals

  • Harnessing the City’s collective power to drive state and federal reform

More of Michelle Wu’s Previous Work Around Food Justice