“Greater successes are achieved when the top and bottom realize their role in the movement and work in cooperation, and partnership, rather than in isolation. …[C]hange happens not from the top down, or only from the bottom up, but when the top and bottom work side-by-side to achieve social change.” –from the Facilitating Change in the Food Justice Movement study
In our work for food justice, we know that we face many challenges — lack of food access, so-called “food deserts,” skyrocketing rates of obesity and diet-related diseases, to name just a few. And we know that many of these problems hit low-income communities and communities of color the hardest. Too often, communities hardest hit by the impacts of the unhealthy food system aren’t seen as also having the solutions to the challenges they face–when the reality is that the most lasting and sustainable solutions are those that come from the ground up.
D’Artagnan Scorza, Executive Director of Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) in Inglewood, California, and Nikki Henderson, Executive Director of People’s Grocery (PG), in Oakland, California, have been talking about this paradox for a long time. They continued these conversations as part of WhyHunger’s Community Learning Project for Food Justice, and the result is the groundbreaking study, “Facilitating Change in the Food Justice Movement.”
The paper examines the roles of community-based organizations, non-profits and funders in facilitating real change, and analyzes the strategies and theories of change of SJLI and PG as organizations successfully working with residents to address diet-related health disparities. The report concludes with strong recommendations for food justice and community health work to start from within the community, driven by community needs and local leaders with support–rather than direction–from external organizations and funders.