Eat! Grub

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by Allison Page • 11/4/08 • When I was growing up, the word “grub” meant only two things: a thick-bodied larva that burrowed beneath my parents’ grass, and food. But for Bryant Terry—eco-chef, author, Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, and food justice advocate—and Anna Lappé, “grub” refers to food that is healthy, local and sustainable, and that supports community and justice. Grub should be available to everyone.

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

Last Friday, I heard Bryant Terry speak about grub (also the title of his book with Ms. Lappé), food justice and his activist trajectory during his lecture for Augsburg College’s Convocation Series. Titled “Just Food: Cooking as an Organizing Tool in the Food Justice Movement,” Terry began with a rousing call and response (eat! grub!), and used his Oakland, Calif. home to highlight the necessity of connecting racial and economic justice to the local food movement.

“In my neighborhood, I can go to the People’s Grocery, a farmers market, a Whole Foods, or a Safeway,” he said. “But less than two miles away, I’d be in West Oakland, where the 30,000 or so residents are largely black and Latino, and where there are 53 liquor stores and zero supermarkets. To add insult to injury, the same grocery items at these stores are 30-100% more expensive than at supermarkets.”

Many communities around the country and in Minnesota are trying new strategies to address these so-called food deserts. As Terry acknowledged, North Minneapolis is another food desert, where local activist Annie Young is currently working to develop a food co-op. And IATP’s mini farmers market project is also working to bring healthy local food to underserved communities in Minneapolis.

During graduate school, Terry discovered the food programs that the Black Panthers implemented as a response to so many young people of color going to school hungry. “The free breakfast program started in Oakland in 1969,” said Terry. “Within one year, it had spread across the nation, and 10,000 people were being fed each day.” Inspired, and fueled by the knowledge that low-income and communities of color were disproportionately affected by diet-related health problems, Terry founded b-healthy! (Build Healthy Eating and Lifestyles to Help Youth) in 2001 to raise awareness about food justice and to empower low-income youth of color through food and healthy eating.

Terry closed by urging students to examine their own life stories—the “Aha!” moments and the space for increased activism—and recommended making a delicious meal as a way to make change. “Food is a great way to connect issues: racial justice, economic justice, and immigrant rights,” said Terry. “We need to go beyond direct service and shift power…it’s about taking ownership in your community.”