Access to affordable, plant-based foods is undoubtedly a human rights issue. In America alone, it is estimated that 30 million people each year experience some form of food insecurity, while 23.5 million people live in what is called a food desert. Food deserts are classified as any urban area in which a grocery store is located more than half a mile away and where most of its residents do not own or have access to a vehicle. Historically, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities have lived in (and continue to live in) under-resourced areas where access to affordable, healthy, plant-based foods is inequitable. Here are five ways to advance food justice in the form of accessible and affordable plant-based foods in underserved Black communities.
1. Support Black-owned vegan restaurants that are serving their community.
There’s no better way to vote with your dollars than by supporting and amplifying the work of individuals within BIPOC communities. Across the nation, Black-owned vegan restaurants—such as Souley Vegan in Oakland, CA; Slutty Vegan in Atlanta, GA; and Green Seed Vegan in Houston, TX—are serving plant-based food in and around food deserts. Supporting Black-owned vegan restaurants that are providing accessible and affordable vegan options helps ensure they can keep making a difference in the lives of local residents.
2. Donate fresh produce to local food pantries.
If you have the means to do so, donating fresh produce to non-profit food pantries that need it most is a great way to ensure fresh plant-based foods are reaching hungry families in underserved communities. If you are unsure where to find a food pantry that accepts fresh produce, go to AmpleHarvest.org and type in your zip code to find a center near you.
3. Volunteer at local urban community gardens.
Although donating fresh produce is important in providing affordable and accessible plant-based foods, another thing we can do is ensure the sustainability of plant-based foods within these communities, too. If you have a local urban community garden in your city that offers fresh produce to nearby residents, check to see if they need any volunteers. Offer your time once a week or once a month, get your hands dirty, and feel proud that you’re making a difference.
4. Support Black farmers in any way you can.
You can also make a difference by donating to causes that support Black farmers in overcoming the barriers they face when it comes to things like purchasing land to farm on. Search for initiatives such as The Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund. You can also donate to organizations such as Soil Generation and Black Urban Growers, which are fighting for food justice by helping minority communities regain control over their land and food through education and advocacy.
5. Advocate for SNAP participation at local farmers’ markets.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allows SNAP customers to use their benefits at farmers’ markets licensed by the Food and Nutrition Service in the form of an Electronic Benefit Transfer debit card. However, many SNAP customers are unaware they can use their benefits at participating farmers’ markets. If you have a farmers’ market in your area, be sure to ask them if they participate in SNAP or check to see if their website mentions their participation. Advocating for visible signage both at the market and online can be an effective way to spread the word to SNAP customers in lower-income communities so they can use their benefits to purchase fresh, plant-based food at their local farmers’ market.
6. Donate to grassroots initiatives.
There are many grassroots initiatives across the nation that are making a difference in underserved Black communities, ranging from cooking classes to grocery delivery. Kimberly Renee of Might Be Vegan, for example, launched an initiative called Food Love that is dedicated to helping people of color in low-income communities have direct access to fresh, plant-based food. So far she’s helped to raise more than $15,000 through her GoFundMe campaign. You can also support Woke Foods, a culinary arts and food justice worker-owned cooperative that is currently offering free plant-based meals during COVID-19 for Black and Indigenous people of color in the Northern Manhattan and South Bronx areas.
Cara Thibodeaux is a vegan influencer focused on promoting a vegan lifestyle and advocating for the rights of both human and non-human animals.