Toward Food Equity

Long Beach Fresh is a local food policy council and food program centered on principles of food equity, which includes racial and environmental justice. We believe everyone should have access to healthy food regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or geographic limitations within our city limits.

What do a farmers market manager, place-maker, urban farmer,
educator, and chef have in common?
Working together toward equity with Long Beach Fresh!

Exploitation Within the Food System

For too long, American food industries have perpetuated inequity through targeted advertising of highly processed food-like products to black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), correlating with dramatic disparities in obesity and diabetes.

Conglomerates have nearly antiquated the Black farmer, seizing control of agricultural land, while systems have restricted access to capital for Black business owners who work with much less revenue than white businesses. After decades of discrimination by the Federal Government, Black farmers have lost nearly all of their land.

Meanwhile, women in the food industry and trans individuals receive unfair treatment in the workplace, and the hardships of Latinx and Asian-American farmers are well documented in America. Many Latinx and Asian-American food workers also come from countries where their labor was exploited at extreme levels to support industrial food systems.

Recently, BIPOC-owned food businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19. Already lacking equal access to capital and operating on ⅓ the revenue of white-owned businesses, the pandemic has increased the chances of BIPOC-owned establishments closing permanently

Moreover, we reside and work on Indigenous homelands. We acknowledge and honor the descendants and caretakers of this region including Kizh/Gabrieleño/Tongva, Chumash, Tataviam, Serrano, Kitanemuk, ʔívil̃uqaletem, Acjachemen, Payómkawichum, and any other tribal group possibly not mentioned. Our modern food systems are far removed from the kind of relationship with nature and the land that these caretakers have and continue to practice.

Land discrimination, environmental racism, and and economic inequity in Long Beach have also been well documented.

These issues, in conjunction with rampant inequities in food production, service, and marketing–which parallel environmental, criminal justice, and educational injustices–, signal an immediate need for a comprehensive equity framework in Long Beach, as well as the broader region.

Our Role in Making Change

We believe that the state of our current food system is ripe for innovation. Local food communities across California are making significant headway in reversing the perils of an exploitative food system through policy change, advocacy, and community programming that supports resilience. These efforts require a deep understanding of the unique challenges that BIPOC and marginalized communities face, and making sure that these communities are central in forming solutions to food insecurity, both as entrepreneurs, informed eaters, community advocates, and leaders.

As a food policy council, we are facilitated by two part-time staff members, who are both white men. Driven by our commitment to amplify and support the voices of the BIPOC food community, we are steered by an advisory board that represents the diverse ethnic and gender communities of Long Beach, 25-35% (at any given time) of whom identify as Black. With this in mind, we take in the advice of each of our community advisors as that of a unique individual, informed by their lived experience, in their own neighborhoods. 

We are dedicated to creating space to celebrate food innovation in BIPOC communities, while keeping inequities on the forefront of our change initiatives; . finding opportunities to support Black entrepreneurs; empowering diverse youth; and positioning Long Beach’s unique diversity as an opportunity to build a dynamic, accessible, restorative and regenerative food system. However, beyond these local opportunities, there are a myriad of solutions needed at the systemic level as well.

Systemic Change

The incontrovertible truth is our food system is built on stolen land and exploited labor. Here’s how we propose to fix it. 

  • Acknowledge the genocidal theft of land from First Nations people and the kidnapping of ancestors from the shores of West Africa. Under the brutality of the whip and the devastation of broken families, enslaved Africans cultivated the tobacco and cotton that made America wealthy.
  • Reparations for past harm are a first step toward justice, while opening up land and capital for urban agriculture can also signal this shift.
  • Protect and support food justice for Indigenous communities and tribal lands throughout the region.
  • Promote environmental justice by taking the burden of environmental impact of industrial land use off of BIPOC and low-income communities.
  • Defend the rights of undocumented farm-workers, so that they can better afford to make healthy choices.
  • Protect farm workers from exposure to toxic pesticides by reducing the use of harmful chemicals in farming practices, through state legislation and local procurement decisions.
  • Protect food workers across the chain with PPE and safer working conditions to prevent illness.
  • Honor the people who grow our food by providing living wages, adequate health care, worker protections against discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • Eliminate food apartheid by promoting policies and actions that boost community control of the food system.
  • Support farmers of color with access to education, start-up funding to meet the scale of the challenge.
  • Create food sovereignty through local food networks that open up space for urban agriculture, neighborhood crop sharing, community gardens, backyard harvesting and victory gardens.
  • Agree that nutrition security should be a primary goal in our city, making sure that everyone (especially those most impacted by inequity) has access to healthy food that helps them thrive and succeed.

Get in Touch!

If you have suggestions on how we can better achieve these aims, don’t hesitate to offer feedback, resources, and advice to our staff. We offer working groups on urban agriculture, school food, compost and food waste, and also have positions available on our advisory board to help us with communications, organizational sustainability, and events. 

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