Understanding Food Equity – Resources and Ideas

From production to disposal, our food system affects nearly all aspects of everyday life. How is our current food system affecting the health and economic vitality of communities and what does food equity have to do with it all?

With over 100 participants, the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network hosted a virtual Meet-uP via ZOOM on Wednesday, November 3, 2021 with Kimberly Pettigrew, Director of Food Security Systems from United Way of Greater Knoxville.

Source: Why is Racial Equity Required to Achieve Food Access

Kimberly comes to this discussion with more than a decade of food system experience, most recently serving as the Local Food Initiative Coordinator at Nourish Knoxville, the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Chair, and the Chair of the KEMA Food Access Committee during the COVID-19 Pandemic. With her new position as the Director of Food Security Systems at the United Way of Greater Knoxville, Kimberly is working with the broad community, nonprofits, businesses, and government leadership to create a strategic food plan to realize a state-wide vision in building a more just and equitable food system while providing mentorship and support for up-and-coming food system leaders and organizations. By listening to people from all sides of the spectrum, she has begun to learn first-hand what it takes to overhaul our food system in a way that utilizes radical hospitality, human energy, and cross-sector collaboration to create dignity for those who participate in it.

(ZOOM LINK) Watch “Understanding Food Equity” Virtual Meet-Up

Kimberly Pettigrew’s Presentation Slides

Image Source: United Way of Greater Knoxville
Download Kimberly Pettigrew’s Power Point Presentation: Building Equitable Food Systems

Key Words

Food Equity – Food equity is the belief that people should have equal access to and the ability to grow and consume healthy, affordable, and culturally-significant foods. In a food-equitable system, community members could grow, barter, purchase, or sell their food knowing exactly where their food came from and how it was grown. Food equity is achieved when communities — especially underserved groups — have fair access to these types of food retailers and community gardens producing food via sustainable practices and supporting local farmers with reasonable wages and accommodations. (source: https://www.randomacts.org/kindness-stories/understanding-food-equity-and-global-hunger-terminology/)

Food Apartheid – “…instead of “food desert” [it] is “food apartheid,” because “food apartheid” looks at the whole food system, along with race, geography, faith, and economics. You say “food apartheid” and you get to the root cause of some of the problems around the food system. It brings in hunger and poverty. It brings us to the more important question: What are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices?” – interview with Karen Washington

Equitable Food System – An equitable food system is one that creates a new paradigm in which all — including those most vulnerable and those living in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color — can fully participate, prosper, and benefit. It is a system that, from farm to table, from processing to disposal, ensures economic opportunity; high-quality jobs with living wages; safe working conditions; access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food; and environmental sustainability. (source: https://www.policylink.org/food-systems/equitable-food-systems-resource-guide)

Redlining – The term “redlining” was coined by sociologist John McKnight in the 1960s and derives from how the federal government and lenders would literally draw a red line on a map around the neighborhoods they would not invest in based on demographics alone. Black inner-city neighborhoods were most likely to be redlined. Investigations found that lenders would make loans to lower-income Whites but not to middle- or upper-income African Americans.2 Unable to get regular mortgages, Black residents who wanted to own a house often were forced to resort to exploitatively priced housing contracts that massively increased the cost of housing and gave them no equity until their last payment was delivered. (source: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/redlining.asp)

Experience Experts – Experience Experts have personal experience with food insecurity, lack of affordable and accessible housing, housing instability, and/or programs such as SNAP, tax credits, or other federal “safety net” assistance that help millions of Americans make ends meet.

Food Equity Solutions Discussed

Start with “Experience Experts”. Make sure to compensate the experts’ time and knowledge.

Build human energy to gain support and trust.

Consider social determinants of health in your planning.

Start with assets, not barriers, for system-wide planning.

Start small with specialty interest groups such as (but not limited to), local food advocates, the city government, extension, SNAP offices, churches, school nutrition, interested residents and civic groups.

Data Resources Shared

http://www.justicemap.org/ – Visualize race and income for your community and country.

https://www.policymap.com – Identify the challenges facing your community and strategically target interventions. These maps, data, and insights can help.

uwtn.org/106.5/aliceALICE stands for Asset Limited,  Income  Constrained,  Employed. It is a comprehensive measurement of financial hardship across Tennessee.

The Retiree’s Guide resource to promoting Meals on Wheels

Food, Justice, and Equity Resources

University of North Carolina Asheville

Community Food Resources











Funding Resources