Greetings from Washington, D.C. Here’s wishing you a Happy Labor Day holiday. Among the historic missions of the American labor movement that this holiday commemorates was to ensure that workers adequately fed, clothed, and sheltered themselves and their family members.
In the forty years since the total number of unionized workforce members peaked, American labor has taken a mighty and sustained beating. Since 1979, union representation has been decimated and worker earning power gone retrograde. In American factory towns and manufacturing regions, many workers struggle to make ends meet (even with more than one job); fulfillment of the mission to ensure their comfort and sustenance seems a quaint memory.
That, in 2019, there are food deserts in nearly every major American city and urban area seems shocking. And yet, these places provide their urban dwellers few if any destinations to buy quality food—or better yet—fresh and organically grown local produce. People who live in cities often travel long distances to buy quality food; otherwise, they settle for food that is convenient, but highly processed and expensive. And as we learned from our Tightrope podcast guest, urban transportation expert Dr. Richard Ezike, these mostly pedestrian shoppers are also at high risk of suffering a transportation-related injury, or worse, a fatality.
Until early this year, I had not heard the term Food Justice. But it covers a broad mission to bring the same quality food to people in poorer urban areas as their wealthier suburban counterparts enjoy and perhaps take for granted.
Here in your nation’s capital, DC Greens (a nonprofit organization) uses the levers of food education, food access, and food policy to advance food justice in the nation’s capital. DC Greens does this by:
- Focusing on transformational changes at the systems-level
- Building bridges between government, private sector, communities and non-profits
- Developing advocacy channels to amplify marginalized voices
- Curating best practices and leveraging existing infrastructure
- Responding to community needs
- Providing thought leadership
According to DC Greens:
“The work of creating a just food system shifts power and knowledge to community members so that they can exercise their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food at all times. We believe that healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate. It is grown and distributed with care for the well-being of people, animals and the environment. People practicing food justice leads to an equitable local food system, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment.”
One of the noblest ends of DC Greens’ work is the way that they bring meaningful work to people that need and want it most: people in poor and underserved urban places. Through programs run by them, neighborhood people are finding work in regenerative agriculture, merchandising and selling produce, and providing education and advocacy throughout their communities.
We call work that is profound, protects the planet, supports people and communities, and is fun to do MEANINGFUL WORK. And the work engagements created and supported by groups, like our own DC Greens, check all of the boxes.
Enjoy your Labor Day holiday, and, at your next family meal, offer up some delicious and nutritious locally grown food. You will enjoy the fruit of someone’s labor and help them to do the work of their dreams: meaningful work.
Our best days lie ahead.
DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast. Listen and subscribe to us by keywording “The Tightrope with Dan Smolen” on Apple Podcasts. Also, please rate us and offer suggestions for future guests and topics.
Photo credits: Kids at School Vegetable Garden DC Greens; Farmer’s Market, Juniper_Berry/iStock Photo.