Green Thumbs Growing Kids views dismantling racism as a core principle in analyzing and teaching about the food system. As an organization we work to increase our own and others’ awareness of the interconnectedness of racism, poverty and food insecurity. These issues visibly play out in our inner-city school communities. People of colour in Canada and elsewhere bear the brunt of racism in the food system, from food production and agricultural practices that hurt migrant workers and their families, to lack of accessible and affordable culturally-appropriate foods in the northern cities, and many other examples. To bring about a new, healthy food system, we need to actively dismantle racism in our own organizations and practices, and name it as it appears in our communities.

In helping to build analysis about food systems in the broader movement that we’re part of, we’ve noticed that trends like local foods and organics often hide issues of race and class. We believe that definitions of local food should be expanded to include as many culturally diverse foods as will grow in Ontario, rather than promote a local food system which excludes diverse cultural traditions. Increasing our understanding of solutions beyond “local” and “organic” to initiatives such as fair trade, horizontal trade, and social enterprise are critical to global sustainability.

Anti-racism is one of the underlying principles that guide our programming design. For example, we don’t want to glorify European arrival on the American continent in the curriculum we use and create. Since gardening and growing food fosters a connection to the land, we want to use teaching opportunities to recognize the history of First Nations and colonization, including the enslavement of Africans that created the wealth we now take for granted in the industrialized nations.

Participation in food production can be an empowering experience. In school food garden programs, we can, and should, involve communities of colour and low income communities in a more active way: not just as ‘recipients’ of programs but as actors helping to shape the programs themselves. We know we have more work to do to reach this goal – but we’re excited to be part of this movement!

For a US-based link to anti-racist food system activism go to Growing Food & Justice for all Initiative.