Food Justice Terminology

The Language We Use

Food Justice?! Food Sovereignty?! Sustainable Food Systems?! What do these words mean?

On this page, you can find terminology often used in organizations that seek to align policy, culture and programs with food growing and social justice!

Food Justice is the acknowledgement that eating, growing and selling nutritious food is a right for all people. It is community-led, participatory and locally grown while also striving to respect peoples & communities, the environment and the land. [1]

Food Justice matters because food is being weaponized against the poor, communities of color and indigenous populations. [1] Businesses–in the name of capitalism–have crucially impacted Black and Indigeous People and People of Color (BIPOC) communities via colonization, commodification, and managing land and resources with negligence to those communities, and the environment. Thus intensifying food insecurity, poverty, poor mental & physical health, and so much more. [4]



Food Insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Hunger refers to a physical sensation while food insecurity refers to lack of resources. Although related they are different. [5]

Sustainable agriculture and food systems contain 3 main pillars:

Environmentally Healthy [2]

– How it affects soil health, pollution levels, water usage, etc. [3]

Socially Equitable

– BIPOC centered, considering farm worker well-being, etc.

Economically Equitable

– Value-based, organic, locally-grown, etc.

According to Nyeleni’s 2007 Global Forum for Food Sovereignty, food sovereignty has 6 main components: [6]

Centers Food For People: Food sovereignty highlights the right for all people and communities to have access to healthy, adequate food.

Values Food Providers: Food sovereignty respects the rights of those who cultivate, harvest and process food; including, women, local/family farms, indigenous people, migrant and fisheries workers.

Localizes Food Systems: Food sovereignty centers food providers and food consumers so they can take the lead on food issues and how to solve those issues locally.

Puts Control Locally: Food sovereignty considers the rights of food providers to have control over the land, seeds and water. It rejects the privatization of natural materials.

Builds Knowledge and Skill: Food sovereignty evaluates and regards how local knowledge is shared. It respects the ways that generational process is passed down in a way that does not damage the health and well-being of the people and environment.

Works With Nature: Food sovereignty values food processes that works with ecosystems, avoids environmental damage, and strengthens local food systems when considering climate change.


Oakland has a rich history with food justice efforts. Many of the key players in food justice policies, programs and movements came from communities of color. For example in 1969, the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for School Children Program, not only fed tens of thousands hungry youth, nutritious, free food, but also informed the 1975 federal School Breakfast Program which today feeds over 14 million children breakfast. [7]


Another key player was Oakland’s Brown Beret’s. They not only had food and health programs of their own, but also supported the United Farm Workers movement ( a labor union for farm workers) and the Land Grant Movement, which sought to restore New Mexican land grants to the descendants of their Spanish colonial and Mexican owners. [8]

How Does City Slicker Farms Practice Food


Click the highlighted text to learn more about the food justice aligned programming we offer!

 Backyard Gardens Program

Our Backyard Gardens Programs prioritizes low-income communities and communities of color striving to eat and live healthier. We do this by helping our garden members grow their own food. To support their success, garden members get two years of direct mentorship and a lifetime supply of soil, seeds, and starts.

West Oakland Farm Park

Our West Oakland Farm Park includes a number of features to increase environmental sustainability: drip irrigation, rainwater catchment, recycled and reused construction materials, native plants, organic cultivation methods, habitat for pollinators, growing food locally, environmental education programs, recycling and composting receptacles with educational signage, and extensive plantings of trees.

 Town Fridge

Our Town Fridge is a part of a network of refrigerators across Oakland that provide free food to anyone who needs it. We’re able to stock the fridge with fresh produce we’ve grown, as well as contribute space and electricity for the fridge at the Farm Park. As always, first priority goes to unhoused, low- and fixed-income and BIPOC community members, as well as members of our Garden Program. However, any community members may drop off food and any community members may pick up food.

 Community Council

Our Community Council is a community-based council that serves as the voice of the community and as partners with City Slicker Farms staff and board.


[1] 2021. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 February 2021].

[2] National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. 2021. What is Sustainable Ag? – National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 February 2021].

[3] Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program. 2021. What is Sustainable Agriculture? [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 February 2021].

[4] James, D., Bowness, E., Robin, T., McIntyre, A., Dring, C., Desmarais, A. A., & Wittman, H. (2021). Dismantling and rebuilding the food system after COVID-19: Ten principles for redistribution and regeneration. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Advance online publication.

[5] Hunger and Health. 2021. What Is Food Insecurity in America? | Hunger and Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2021].

[6] 2021. Synthesis Report – Nyeleni – Food sovereignty – Newsletter, Bulletin, Boletin. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2021].

[7] Blakemore, E., 2021. How the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program Both Inspired and Threatened the Government. [online] HISTORY. Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2021].

[8] 2021. Brown Berets. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 February 2021].

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