Food Desert! Food Desert?

Many food justice activists who are concerned about the implicit social assumptions hidden behind languages have spoken against the term “food desert”. According to Renee, a local food champion in Davidson, the catchphrase “food desert” masks the harm that unjust structure imposes upon communities by detaching the phenomenon of food insecurity from the intentionally, and historically, designed unjust social structure, and attaching it instead to the racialized physical spaces and/or people living in there. The risk of using the term “food desert” is that by internalizing the connection between specific groups of people and food insecurity, the society would likely to normalize the assumption that some spaces are created foodless, and the “others” living there are born poor, jobless, and food insecure. Along the line, we also come to realize that instead of “a place with no grocery stores”, “food desert” is a symptom of social immobility, poverty, policy discrimination and self-reinforcing cultural diffidence that constantly perpetuates and normalize itself in our narratives. Food justice is calling more for jobs, income, insurance and social empowerment than for a daily cart of fresh produce in food insecure communities, despite the fact that most community-based organizations have been limited to achieving the latter. Although assuming, labelling and generalizing are indispensable tools for humans to acquire knowledge, it is nonetheless our obligation as college-educated activists to combat the excess of our cognitive process, and self-censor our languages and assumptions.

This video is a TEDx talk given by LaDonna Redmond, a food justice activist who critically questions.