Food and Justice

Volunteers from Detroit’s Eden Gardens Block Club and Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (a Hazon Seal site) work together to plant crops at the community gardens on Detroit’s east side.

“Because the poor will never cease to be in the midst of your land, therefore I command you, saying: open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to the poor in your land.” - Deuteronomy 15:11

Jewish tradition, firmly rooted in texts from the Torah, sees a direct connection between social justice, agriculture, and religious obligation. Food justice starts from the conviction that access to healthy food is a human rights issue. Sharing our bread and feeding the hungry are essential to the Jewish prophetic vision. Even in the US, people are hungry: 15 percent of all children are food insecure, including 34% of African American children. Food justice calls for organized responses to food security problems, responses that are locally driven and owned. We grow more than enough food to provide for everyone, but too many people lack access to it.

“Let the oppressed go free and break every yoke...Offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature — then shall your light shine in darkness, and your gloom shall be like noonday.” - Isaiah 58:6,10

Sustainability is a social, economic, and environmental endeavor. The Fair Trade label embraces all aspects of sustainability. Fair Trade helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities and create a better quality of life. By requiring adequate wages and allowing laborers to organize, the certification ensures that workers are not exploited. Fair Trade certifiers usually require that profits be reinvested in the community. Lastly, farming methods must be environmentally sustainable, too. Certain products pose a particularly high risk of worker exploitation (including modern-day slavery) and damaging farming practices, including coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas. It’s especially important to buy these products with fair trade certification. Choosing Fair Trade products for your day-to-day needs can improve the quality of many people’s day-to-day lives.

Workers in the food industry are generally underpaid, under-insured, and often exploited. Behind almost every sector, there are people being taken advantage of. Waste handlers do high risk work for low pay. In meat processing plants, workers often suffer dangerous and inhumane conditions. Farmers themselves are increasingly locked into cycles of debt, forced upon them by corporations that encourage inhumane animal treatment and unsustainable farming methods. Jewish tradition emphasizes the value of each and every person, as well as the value of the collective. Worker justice is essential to any Jewish vision that honors and empowers both individuals and communities.

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Worker Justice

Start or join a campaign for food service worker or farmworker rights
3 points
Advocacy
Host an event about worker justice
3 points
Education
Pay maintenance, food, and service staff a living wage
5 points
Action
Support labor negotiations with maintenance, food, and service staff
3 points
Action
Cater food from ethically certified or unionized restaurants
3 points
Action

Fair Trade

Start or join a campaign about fair trade
3 points
Advocacy
Lobby for a local grocery store to source more fair trade items
3 points
Advocacy
Host an event about the importance of fair trade
3 points
Education
Purchase fair trade Judaica and ritual items
3 points
Action
Purchase fair trade items
4 points
Action
More info

Hunger

Advocate against hunger and access to healthy food
3 points
Advocacy
More info
Volunteer your building as a location for the Summer Meal program
3 points
Action
Create or maintain a program that provides meals for the hungry
4 points
Action
Host food drives regularly
2 points
Action
Host an event related to hunger or food justice
2 points
Education
Challenge members of your community to take the SNAP Challenge
2 points
Action
Partner with a local organization that helps the food insecure
2 points
Action
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Related Resources

Food Guide and Audit

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Hazon Seal Webinar: Food Waste

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Save The Food

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Food Justice Shabbat Dinner

This program brought members of the Jewish community together for a Shabbat dinner that highlighted local and ethically sourced ingredients while educating participants about issues of food justice in our city. The dinner included sharing stories, discussion questions, and conversations about ways to help promote equal food access. We partnered with a local food justice […]

Mazon.org

A Jewish response to hunger in the United States and Israel

Fair Trade

Explore these websites to get a better understanding of Free Trade, both in and out of a religious context.

Feeding America

Feeding America works to reduce food waste and hunger. Read more about how to help on their website. Access this resource here.

Food Justice Resources

Ways to engage with food justice issues individually and in the classroom, including a possible curriculum and food justice syllabus.