ExtraFood Founder Marv Zauderer: “Food Justice is Racial Justice”
July 07, 2020
Last year, one of my daughters and I visited the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. We were there to experience the Academy’s exhibit entitled, “What is Skin?” At the start of the exhibit, a sign labeled “Constructed Categories” beckoned, with these words:
A racial system shapes our lives
Human races are categories that humans invented. These groupings change over time and from place to place and are often linked to skin color. Society has used these notions of race to privilege some people over others and to assign judgments of people’s character based on their physical appearance.
In a society, and a region, that glorifies inventions, the insidious entrenchment and murderous destructiveness of race is – and long has been – a national emergency. The killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others makes that clear. Again. And again. And again.
Over the past two years, I have begun to confront myself on issues of race:
- As a white male, I have become more deeply sensitized to just how much I have benefitted, every day of my life, from the privilege bestowed upon me from birth;
- Many times, I see I have unconsciously regarded White culture as the norm and the cultures of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as “different,” as The Other;
- As a Jew, I am aware that I have hidden behind the longtime alliances between the Black and Jewish communities, and the long history of Jews being persecuted and murdered by oppressors, to focus more on commonalities I have with the Black community than ways in which I have perpetuated inequities;
- By not working actively and consistently to end racism, I have unwittingly helped to perpetuate it.
For me, seeing race for what it is – not as objective truth, but as constructed categories – carries with it a sense of responsibility: personal and professional. In my work, I feel an obligation to ensure ExtraFood makes an impact on ending racism, in a way that is connected with our mission to help end hunger and food waste in Marin. That connection starts with this: Food justice is racial justice. Everyone in our community – every child, every senior, every family -- should have the food they need, yet a root cause of food insecurity for many is systemic racism. ExtraFood is addressing this by increasing equitable access to healthy, fresh food in Marin: redistributing some of the best excess food in the world and working with restaurants and caterers to provide freshly-made meals for people struggling with hunger.
And we know we can do more. We will:
- Expand our investment in broadening equitable access to fresh food
- Engage in discussion, among our staff, about our individual privilege
- Increase BIPOC voices on our Board and staff
- Identify ways in which ExtraFood can be more sensitive and attuned to cultural norms and languages other than English
- Take responsibility for any missteps we make
- Increase funding for our staff’s professional development around these issues, deepening our learning so we can expand our awareness and anti-racist action
- Speak out about racism and the inequities in our food system
- Give extra time off to our staff to rise up as allies and activists for the BLM movement and other public protests against racism
- Listen deeply to, and amplify, the voices of BIPOC in our community
ExtraFood is an organization by, of, and for our community. As a steward of your trust and support, I will continue to report to you on the contributions ExtraFood is making to our community’s growing antiracist imperative.
What is skin? Layers of tissue that work together as a system to cover and protect. More so now than ever, I see it is not the time to cover and protect myself, but to open my heart as we work together toward the day when all in our community have the food they need.
Founder and Executive Director, ExtraFood.org