Statement from Director Amy DeLisio on behalf of the Center for Wellness and Nutrition
The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., Emmett Till, and countless other African Americans speak to the deeply embedded racism and history of violence and abuse of power in our country. We need systemic change NOW.
Food Justice is Racial Justice. The same endemic history of racism also fuels food injustice. Our nation’s food system is built on racism and exploitation. The residue of slavery has a tremendous influence on food and labor systems around the world and our food system is still built on these principles. This can be seen today through low and unfair wages across the food chain, discouragement of worker organizing for better conditions, lack of access to and investment in high quality, healthy foods in low income neighborhoods, lack of value of nutrition education and basic cooking and gardening skill building to prevent chronic disease. African-American households are still disproportionately reliant on low wage jobs and are under-represented in business and equity ownership.
The Black Panther Party was a pioneer in the food movement in the 1960s. The Black Panther Party was born in Oakland, California at a time when the United States refused to address poverty and hunger in African-American communities and failed to end ongoing harassment and criminalization of poor, urban African Americans by the police force. Although, the Black Panther Party was targeted and villainized by the FBI, their goals were to protect, educate, and set up community programs in Black communities to address discrimination, and economic and social injustices. Their most successful program was the Free Breakfast for Children Program. The Free Breakfast for Children Program focused national attention on the urgent need to give poor children nutritious meals so that they could be successful in school. In a 1969 senate hearing, the National School Lunch Program Director admitted that the Free Breakfast for Children Program fed more poor children than the entire state of California. This ultimately influenced funding for the Federal School Breakfast Program we have today, which feeds over 14 million children annually.
African Americans still disproportionally suffer from poverty, obesity, and food insecurity in a land of abundance. Their communities are still targeted and villainized by people in power. Eating while Black should be a right, not a privilege. The Black Panther Party’s vision of a world where all children are fed, where food, healthcare, education, access to land, and housing are rights is the same as the Black Lives Matter Movement today more than 50 years later. It is time to sever the roots of racism and begin planting seeds for CHANGE.
The Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN), a program of the Public Health Institute, stands in solidarity with Black leaders and communities in calling for accountability and action to end police violence, and we support our Black neighbors and community in their response to injustice.
CWN uses a food security/health equity platform to guide our work and advocate for just food and nutrition policies. We challenge you to join us in calling for real CHANGE in policies and systems that condone racism and injustice in our communities and our nation.
We can make it happen by:
- Educating ourselves. The Sacramento Library put together this anti-racist reading list for all ages.
- Supporting an equitable food movement to build stronger Black communities and food systems.
- Supporting Black-owned businesses.
- Identifying political candidates who refuse to settle for the status quo and following through by voting!
- Taking part in collective action (through petitions, direct communications, public meetings, membership on civic committees, and more) calling on local and national leaders to make CHANGE happen.
- Joining Campaign Zero to stay informed about evidence-based solutions to end police violence.
Together we must be the change. Stand up and Speak out for Justice NOW.
Center for Wellness and Nutrition