Today we added two more pieces to our conception of the food justice puzzle. We learned about how hunger is addressed through charity and we explored the issues with our current industrialized agricultural system; two issues that can be remedied by the urban agriculture models we have already explored.
The morning was spent in the New Orleans Second Harvest Food Bank, where we sorted and packed canned goods that will be distributed to various partner pantries throughout New Orleans. The Second Harvest Food Bank has been in operation since 1982 when it distributed 50,000 pounds of food per month. The food bank now distributes well over 1,000,000 pounds of food to over 167,000 people every month. In New Orleans, 1 in 6 people are food insecure and rely on interfaith pantries and non-profit organizations to fill their needs. We took a tour of the warehouse where donations are collected, stored, repacked, and distributed. 20% of the donations come from individual food drives, and 80% comes from retailers and Feed America, which is an organization affiliated with the USDA. The 200,000 square foot warehouse employs 65-70 people and is able to offset some of its significant operation costs by leasing out some of the refrigerated space. The fact that Second Harvest is the largest food bank in the world speaks to the significance of the unmet hunger problems in Louisiana.
We spent the later half of the day watching the documentary “Fresh”, a documentary recommended by Nat Turner of Our School at Blair Grocery. This film explores the issues of the agro-industrial food system and some of the alternative farming practices that have emerged to deal with these issues. These alternative practices are trying to combat the “faster, bigger, cheaper” model of food production that has resulted in severe economic, health, social, animal welfare, and environmental issues. The crux of these movements is the desire to merge agricultural wisdom with sustainable technology to arrive at a solution that can solve hunger on a large scale in a sustainable, healthy way. Actually, medium-sized organic farms are more productive than any size of industrial farm. The film promotes practices like local farming co-ops, natural cattle grazing, crop rotation, organic and humane techniques, and warns against monocultures, the use of pesticides, herbicides, and hormones, subsidizing corn and soy, and monopolized agriculture. It is important to integrate this information into our knowledge of how food systems operate and contribute to unsustainable practices and food insecurity. Moving forwards, we are going to support the agricultural approaches that respect nature and diversity as our way of affecting everyday change.