INFAS Statement on Equity in the Food System
INFAS is a network of educators and researchers who are dedicated to food system sustainability and committed to supporting, learning from and partnering with activists in our communities. We recognize that our food system is profoundly inequitable and institutions of higher education hold power and privilege that can be used for good or harm. Equity in opportunity, food access and health outcomes is a non-negotiable foundational principle of a sustainable food system and a core value and commitment for us.
To help build equity in the food system, we are focusing on the barrier of structural racism. We recognize multiple forms of oppression; so we also will focus on gender and class oppression, and the intersections among race, class, and gender that shape barriers and opportunities to equity.
We make a commitment to collaborate with communities of practice and place through our research, education and convening capabilities to better understand, communicate and find solutions to how food system disparities affect the experiences of those most affected by systemic inequities. We will strive to work with and respect community members as leaders, co-creators of knowledge, co-formulators of questions and co-facilitators in building solutions as we endeavor to create a more just food system for all people.
Some actions INFAS has taken to begin living up to this statement include forming the justice working group, partnering on graduate fellowship programs to diversify who does this work and educate INFAS mentors, organizing around hiring for WK Kellogg and other endowed academic chair positions, working on land acknowledgement statements, and authoring the Deeper Challenge of Change response to a food systems report by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).
During the Network's annual gathering (2013) we decided to engage in a design process to deliberately interrogate the Network’s values and its priorities for action and engagement in order to build the foundation necessary for collective impact on the food system. Our statements ('Vision' and ‘Equity in the Food System') were drafted by the INFAS design team after more than a year of reflection and discussion to underpin the Network’s mission and objectives moving forward. The Statements were finalized in September 2014 after the Design Team engaged in discussions with network members in person (including during the 2014 INFAS annual meeting) and also by email. Based on feedback the Design Team received, they developed a 'preamble' to provide a more encompassing framing to the vision and racial equity statements. Network members were invited to 'sign-on' as supporters of the statements and INFAS participation guidelines were subsequently revised to include commitment to the INFAS mission, vision, preamble, and statement on food system equity, during the annual INFAS meeting in summer 2015.
This preamble was developed to simultaneously acknowledge the multi-dimensionality of the food system and reinforce that INFAS values systemic analyses and transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and single discipline approaches to solving problems.
It further articulates that there are diverse sustainability challenges including:
(1) environmental (e.g., climate change, loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification);
(2) economic (e.g., low wages and limited food system access, especially for women, poor people, and people of color); and
(3) social (e.g., legacies of slavery, theft of resources, and leadership in the food system that has historically favored white affluent males) that lead us further away from food system sustainability, resilience and equity.