On June 1, CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy Dean Ayman El-Mohandes released our School’s statement on racial injustice underscoring that “the suffering in communities of color has been and continues to be vastly disproportionate, founded in structural racism that shapes health, wealth, education, and housing” and that “[t]hese inequities impinge on the sanctity of life itself.” The food system, which is intertwined with all those basic necessities of life, is no exception and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute has been committed to advancing food equity since its establishment. The statement that follows is the result of the collaborative work and reflection of our team over the past few weeks and includes input from each one of us.
The staff of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute stands in solidarity with the protestors and activists demanding the end to police violence against Black people and other communities of color, as well as an end to the racism and white supremacy which have infected the United States for so long. With them, we mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, and so many others. With them, we too insist that Black Lives Matter.
As individuals dedicated to advancing just, healthy and sustainable food systems, we understand that racial injustice and food injustice are intertwined throughout the history of the United States. Creating an equitable food system will require dismantling the many ways that racism has shaped how people grow, sell, and eat food in this country. Readers who want to further their understanding of this history can find useful resources here. We recognize the numerous New York based organizations already entrenched in this work, among many others: Corbin Hill Food Project, Green City Force, East New York Farms, Harlem Grown, Brooklyn Movement Center, Just Food, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and Rise and Root Farm.
In honor of those killed by the police and the many who have fought against racism and continue to do so, we commit ourselves to continuing to understand, call out, and dismantle white supremacy wherever possible. We commit ourselves to being actively anti-racist through our research, advocacy, community partnerships, and activism. Specifically, we commit to:
- Amplify the voices of the Black community and other people of color in our forums by having a racially diverse group of panelists;
- Offer opportunities for training and leadership in food justice, policy, and research to people of color, CUNY students, CBOs, and youth;
- Advocate for good food jobs and workforce training, especially in underserved, low-income communities;
- Hold city, state, and federal officials accountable for implementing policies that disrupt food justice and have a negative impact on communities of color;
- Conduct research that values and treats with respect the communities in which we work, and supports and informs equitable food policies, food justice, and a fair and sustainable food system.
Further, we add our voices in calling on the City of New York to enhance policies that support the social safety net and to refocus city investment in equity driven programs and social services including food access and food justice initiatives, and good food jobs, just food workforce, and vocational training in Black and Brown communities most harmed by police violence and structural racism.
Charita Johnson James
Katy Tomaino Fraser