Food Justice For Rockaway

Far Rockaway’s lack of steady nutritious and fresh food options has resulted in the Rockaways being federally labeled a food desert. Labelling a community a food desert means that residents do not have consistent access to nutritious food supplies. Recognizing the need for wholesome, fresh food options, the Rockaway Youth Task Force, Edgemere Farm, and The Coalition Against Hunger are organizations dedicated to food justice by providing residents with access to healthy food options. Each organization acknowledges that we, as a collective community, have the ability to improve our nutritious conditions, especially since food justice involves creating accessible spaces for nutritious food.

Food justice is year-round access to healthy foods as well as the ability to store, purchase, and grow food in order to have healthy and nutritious choices. We all have the right to have healthy food and access to those foods. With that being said, we are excited to announce that the Beach 91st Street Community Garden is open, ahead of two other community garden projects slated for the near future. In addition, the Arker development project has noted that a Western Beef, a low-cost supermarket, will be coming to the Rockaways and may help to end Rockaway’s status as a food desert.

Nutrition is perhaps the most important aspect for quality of life. Our bodies thrive off of nutritious foods, converting what we consume into energy to be efficient. For example, if we think of the body as a car, the car needs fuel which is gas. When we refill the gas, it will inevitably fuel the car’s engine and determine the distance the car can travel. In a similar manner, our bodies run off of the food that we consume. You can imagine that the better the quality of the food and the more nutritious, the better off the body will be. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services has shown that nutritious foods are important for developmental health, particularly physical and cognitive well-being. As such, it is necessary for us to have access to healthy food options in order to nourish our bodies. The lack of nutritious food contributes to poor health. Therefore, healthy food access is particularly important for Rockaway residents because the Rockaways have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in New York City.

A large component of food justice is food security. According to Dr. Gail Feenstra, Deputy Director of Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at UC Davis, food security is composed of 6 points:

1. Food miles: It is necessary to consider your food’s travel time. In order to be a conscious consumer, you should ask: How far has my food traveled to arrive at its destination? Ultimately, the less travel time a food has the fresher it is.

2. Relational/proximate: It is important to think about who has access to the food and who does not. You can do this by asking questions such as: Where does this food go? How much does this food cost? Who receives it? Who does not?

3. Food accessibility: You can take into consideration how far people must travel in order to have access to healthy foods. You can ask the question: How long does it take to get to nutritious foods? What are the transportation options available to get there? Again, is it convenient and accessible to individuals with disabilities? Does someone with several children have this option as well?

4. Economic equity: Depending on an individual’s economic status and location, what is considered affordable food will vary. Therefore, there should be enough low-cost healthy food options in order to provide equal access to fresh, nutritious, and healthy food. Ask yourself: How much does this food cost? Who would be able to afford it and who would not?

5. Health disparities: As aforementioned, Rockaway residents statistically have higher rates of diabetes and obesity. A non-nutritious diet is correlated with these health disparities. Therefore, it is necessary to increase access to nutritious food choices. The next time you have the option to choose between a healthy and unhealthy food option, which is the same price, think about the potential health effects on your body.

6. Environmental protection: Chemical fertilizers are used to mass produce food, in addition to supplying larger and more inexpensive produce. However, this can be damaging for both the human body and the environment. When you do not eat organic foods, consider what has been placed in your food and what it has been treated with during its growth process.

It is only fitting to end with a quote by prominent black activist, bell hooks,which reminds each of us of our history, and the agricultural knowledge and abilities that we have inherited from our ancestors and must therefore reclaim.

Collective black self-recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth, when we remember the way our ancestors…

Living in modern society without history, it has been easy to forget that black people were first and foremost people of the land, farmers.” – bell hooks