Forging the Justice Path

School food system reform is a critical strategy for addressing fundamental justice issues.

Forging the Justice Path

“Forging the Food Justice Path” is a chapter from the Center for Ecoliteracy’s book Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Lisa Bennett, and Zenobia Barlow (Jossey-Bass, 2012).

The chapter describes school food system reform as a critical strategy for addressing fundamental justice issues.

"Forging the Food Justice Path"  focuses on Tony Smith, superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) when the Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL) began working with the district. “It's not that we will get to the food stuff after everything else,” said Smith. He described school food reform as “part of the basic work we have to do in order to correct systemic injustice, pursue equity, and give our children the best possible future.”


Download the chapter from Ecoliterate [146k PDF]



Postscript: When the chapter was written, CEL and OUSD had just completed the Rethinking School Lunch Oakland feasibility study. Subsequently, the Oakland board of education unanimously adopted recommendations from the feasibility study as part of its Facilities Master Plan. Oakland voters passed a $475 million bond measure (83.65 percent “yes” votes), with $40 million designated for food service facilities, including a central commissary, education center, and 1.5-acre instructional farm. CEL is the lead agency for the design and development of that project.

In 2013–14, CEL and OUSD piloted California Thursdays™, a collaboration between CEL, participating school districts, and allied organizations to serve healthy, freshly prepared school meals made from California-grown food to California students. Because nearly 70 percent of Oakland public school students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the program addresses issues of equity as well as health, academic achievement, local economies, and the environment. The program expanded statewide in 2014.

"Forging the Food Justice Path" is excerpted with permission of the publisher, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint. Copyright © 2012 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.