So, What’s “The New Jewish Food Movement?” A Movement for Justice

During the keynote speech of the Hazon Food Conference, which was held in Davis, California last weekend, Judith Belasco, Hazon’s Director of Food Programs, reminded us that four years ago the expression “New Jewish Food Movement” didn’t even exist.

Well, if the conference was any indication, the New Jewish Food Movement is thriving, consisting of hundreds of Jewish individuals and communities across the country who are working to change a world where U.S. food aid policy undermines farmers in developing countries, where 50 million people in the U.S. face food insecurity every day and where people can’t access or afford fresh food in neighborhoods like the South Bronx, which has only twelve grocery stores for 88,000 people.

Yes, the New Jewish Food Movement is about more than growing your own food and eating healthfully (although these things are very important as well). It’s about ensuring that everyone has equal access to fresh food and control over their food systems. It’s about understanding that food is a right—not a privilege—and that hunger today is not caused by a lack of resources or overpopulation but by policies that directly impact people’s ability to feed themselves. It’s about policies and systems that we have the power to change.

At the conference, we talked about how CSAs can serve as ready-made communities that can be mobilized for social action. We also heard from Joel Berg and Judith Bell about how hunger is solvable and how small changes—like banning fingerprinting as a requirement for Food Stamps—can have dramatic impact.

Our motivation to take action was anchored by one of the final sessions of the conference, where Oran Hesterman, President of Fair Food Network and author of “Fair Food,” and my colleague, Dahlia Rockowitz, policy associate at AJWS, gave us an overview of the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization and showed us how change is possible in the coming years. Hesterman focused on the domestic aspects of the bill and talked about increasing the purchasing power of food stamps benefits at local farmer’s markets. Dahlia focused on how the Farm Bill includes legislation that negatively impacts food prices and farmers’ livelihoods in developing countries.

We’re at a very unique moment in time, where food justice is at the forefront of the way we learn, think and act around issues of food.

Hungry for more? Take our quiz about food justice and the Farm Bill to understand more of the core issues at play.