Step by Step: Moving Toward Food Justice

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When I used to facilitate anti-oppression workshops, I often would talk about the process of recognition and disentanglement from –isms that occurs as one learns about oppression. First, there is unconscious ignorance, which through learning is followed by conscious ignorance. This means that you are aware of what you don’t know and are taking the time to learn. Next, there is conscious action. This stage is about working toward making positive changes with that knowledge. This stage requires a lot of self-reflection and attention to one’s actions. With time, the last stage can be reached. Although it is not necessarily permanent and there is always a need for self-reflection, we reach unconscious action. The idea here is that one has internalized non-oppressive values and acts on them somewhat instinctively. This same model can be used to think of any sort of education or awakening.

While I was at the grocery store today, I had to do a lot of conscious decision-making that I feel sad to say did not result in purely ethical choices. However, through this journey, I have been able to recognize and take ownership of my actions. I probably sit somewhere between conscious ignorance and conscious action. I have recently made plans for our household to make more regular trips to the farmers market.

I cannot say that I have had a single aha movement. It is a process that continues as I engage more with understanding the global food system. However, as I shake off my conscious ignorance and embrace more thoughtful action, I am left feeling unsatisfied by what I can do as an individual actor. I am looking toward collective transformative action that addresses the multitude of factors involved, such as economic injustice, racial inequity and public health disparity. I have found that the consequences of an unfair food system are as many as the causes. I take this to mean that the solution will be just as complex.

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