Reflection: How Food Justice Has Changed My Activism

I am an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Presbyterian Hunger Program. I am also known as a Community Food Justice Cultivator. Eight months ago I was simply Amber Burns; activist, Black feminist and poet. For the past five years I have read many books and articles with the hope of becoming more socially and racially conscious.  During that time I believed oppression was limited to sexism, racism, classism, and heterosexism.  Although I was hyper aware of the atrocities listed above, my narrow understanding of oppression had not granted me the ability to adequately see the underlying connectedness between food and other forms oppression. I knew no one form of oppression stood alone, isolated from another. As educated as I was, I was guilty of participating in the oppression Olympics. 

This is not to suggest that I believed racism to be a more urgent matter than hunger. On the contrary, I thought of food as an immediate need. My failure was equating hunger with starvation. When I thought of hunger, the image of unhealthily thin children whose ribs were visible against their skin came to mind. I was familiar with the growing problem of food deserts in urban communities and the lack of access to organic healthy food but I simply could not make food justice a priority in my activism….that is…..until I became a VISTA.

Becoming a VISTA for PHP was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my short time on this earth. Learning about the connection between food, racism and poverty has pushed me to think more holistically. I now have to redefine my activism and not allow it be divided by causes but motivated by my passion for people and my belief in fairness for all.