Family Farm Defenders (Kansas Chapter)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

About KC Food Justice



The mission of KC Food Justice  is to serve as a a vehicle for all of the diverse communities of Greater Kansas City (GKC), including those most directly and negatively impacted by the costs and burdens of our unhealthy food, agriculture, environmental  and socioeconomic policies. Through this coalition, we will build our collective strength from the bottom-up, using grassroots, door to door, community organizing, in order to transform the power relationships and institutional structures that determine our food, health, and wealth through policy advocacy. Our goal is to engage all Greater Kansas City's community members, including those most directly and negatively impacted by our food, agriculture, health, environmental  and socioeconomic policies,  in building their power to understand and effectively reform those policies for our common good.

We envision an inclusive, bottom-up coalition of all GKC's diverse communities, working together in solidarity and mutuality, to build citizen and true democratic power to actualize healthy, just, fair and sustainable food, agriculture, environmental and socioeconomic policies, practices and systems,  which ensure sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious, culturally appropriate food to all, and livelihoods with dignity and justice for small and family farmers, and food and farm workers through grassroots policy advocacy.  

We envision GKC's diverse communities, including those that are most directly and negatively impacted, working together to build just, strong and authentic relationships, moving from individualism to community centerdness, walking our talk and being the values in which we say we believe. 

We envision work which transforms us personally and community-wide, allows for healing, self-actualization, the release of human potential,  and is "liberatory" both for individuals and communities. Process is important as goals and all people must be treated with dignity. All lives matter.


This project began in September 2012, when our founders, began going door to door in the Parade Park Neighborhood of KCMO, one of GKC's neighborhoods most directly and negatively impacted by our nation's unhealthy food, agriculture, environmental  and socioeconomic policies. They initiated hundreds of conversations, 4 community and 3 city wide meetings, 1 community radio show, passed-out thousands of fliers, and used traditional and social media to raise awareness of these policies with community residents. They explored community interest in organizing themselves to build their collective strength to influence these policies, and the community initiated its own advocacy opposing recent proposed cuts to food stamps. Our founders used cutting-edge, culturally appropriate materials.

What makes this project unique is that it is led by the GKC communities, in coalition with other communities, who are the most directly and negatively impacted by our unhealthy food, agriculture, environmental and socioeconomic policies. As well, we are inclusive and diverse; people of all faiths, including Muslims and Bahai's, agnostics and atheists as well as Christians and Jews; recent immigrants from Somalia, Mexico, Iraq, Laos and Haiti as well as the descendants of older immigrant groups from Europe and Native Americans. We are gardeners, farmers, activists, food and farm workers, and "eaters."  


The general purpose of this work  is to build the power of all GKC communities to improve their health, especially those communities most directly and negatively impacted by our nation's food, agriculture and socioeconomic policies through grassroots community organizing. 

"KC Food Justice" will engage in grassroots community organizing of Greater Kansas City community members in order to build our strength to transform the power relationships and institutional structures that determine our food and health through policy advocacy. KC Food Justice will  facilitate the organization of and build the capacity of GKC residents to improve our own health and change the policies and practices that systematically undermine our food and health.

Project activities will include door to door grassroots organizing, monthly community meetings, and strategic communications, including traditional and social media outreach, to raise awareness in the general public and our core constituencies of the impacts of food, agriculture and socioeconomic policy on our health. The major outcomes of this work  are to organize ourselves to improve our food and health by transforming our power realtionships and institutional structures that determine our food, agriculture and socioeconomic polices. Through this work, KC Food Justice will enable GKC community members, including  those most directly impacted, to shift the power relationships that determine their food and health.

Problem or Need

     In Greater Kansas City, including in those communities most directly and negatively impacted by our unhealthy and unjust food, agriculture and socioeconomic policies, we need healthier lives, and with this project we aim to build power and community connection/resiliency in order to effectively create the practices and influence the institutions that will ensure and support us as we actualize healthy lives.

     The specific problem that this project seeks to address is the lack of power of we GKC community members, including those most directly and negatively impacted by societal structures, systems and policies related to food and agriculture, to shape and influence those policies in our own interest, and the severe consequences to our health and wealth.

     Our health will not change until all GKC communities, especially those most directly and negatively impacted, have political, social and economic power to shape the policies that set the terms for food and health in our communities. We aim to build this power by focusing on improving our health, while understanding that our health is influenced by all of these sociopolitical and economic factors, policies, practices and institutions. 

      Second, hundreds of years of internalized oppression have left people, particularly those most directly and negatively impacted, with an extremely distorted, negative sense of self-worth, self-efficacy, and limited understanding of the resiliency, knowledge and healing already active in communities.  Such knowledge can be built upon and magnified to heal all communities and undo these frames of references. We recognize that personal and community transformation and healing is needed alongside community and political organizing to improve public health.  

     Finally, the most directly and negatively impacted community members are inundated with concerns about community safety such as murders, illegal drugs,  and sexual predators and  issues of housing justice such as untreated infestations of rats and bedbugs, failure to allow children to use recreational property and sadistic behaviors, as well as education and health care. These problems serve to further impair the health and reduce the power of those most directly and negatively impacted by our unhealthy food and agriculture policies. Our community dialogues will include these issues as prerequisites to food justice and full health.

KC Food Justice Stories

People sell their food stamps for rent. My community is hungry."
Kerri.G. 24, left and her 2 year old son, Xavier, on the far right with his mom, live in the Parade Park neighborhood of the urban core of KCMO.  Kerri and Xavier are hungry and malnourished and Kerri at 24 is already disabled.  Kerri has type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure so high (over 200) she fainted four times at her last job and was ordered to quit by her doctor who declared her disabled. Kerri is also depressed; her mom kicked her out of her home at 14 and her aunt who was her primary supporter recently passed away. At our May 2013 community meeting, she poignantly broke into tears as she described how worried she was about her high blood pressure and all the medications she is prescribed.  Later she shared with me that she was hospitalized for three days after our meeting because of high blood pressure. Kerri and Xavier have no income since Kerri had to quit her job; she is applying for disability but that can take a long time. In the meantime, she has $146 per month in food stamps for Xavier.  She buys meat for Xavier and supplements their food with free food from food banks we referred her to.  Kerri is afraid to go and to let Xavier play outside because she fears for their safety. There was recently a murder in her block.  Xavier wails loudly when she will not let him play outside. Both Kerri and Xavier were born with eczema all over their bodies.  Before this last job, Kerri worked a number of fast food jobs, notorious for low pay and no benefits, rampant discrimination, and unsafe working conditions.[1] She is proud that she was able to earn enough to own her own home at one time. 

[1] UC Berkeley Labor Center, Fast-Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in The Fast Food Industry, October 15, 2013, Sylvia Allegretto, Marc Doussard, Dave Graham-Squire, Ken Jacobs, Dan Thompson and Jeremy Thompson. Fast food workers are more likely to be killed than police officers. (Food Empowerment Project, Fast Food, Web.))

 “Shooting in Salt of the Earth Youth Market Garden and Training Farm,” KC, KS.
On Sunday, September 15, 2013, between 5 to 6 pm, a 27 year old man was shot in “Farm Girl Greene’s” Salt of the Earth Youth Market Garden and Training Farm at 13th and Georgia, in the Oak Grove neighborhood of the urban core of KCKS. He died across the street. Two years before a 7 year old was murdered in the house across the street by a stray bullet.  Longtime community resident, Angela Greene, known as ‘Farm Girl Greene” because of her beautiful half block vegetable market garden and training farm she started in 2009, was overcome with fear and concern for herself and the youth and volunteers who worked in her garden.  “Farm Girl Greene” works for UPS by night and lives with and takes care of her father who has Alzheimer’s and her sister who has had a stroke. Her elegant mother also lives with the family. Angela went door to door in the neighborhood to invite community residents to a rededication ceremony of her beautiful and abundant garden.  We formed a human chain around the garden as a symbol of love and security and Angela says she feels ready to go back to the garden, but we all know it isn’t safe.

 “Housing Justice” Parade Park Neighborhood, KCMO

Camelia Pomphrey, works for the IRS, and is laid off four months of every year. Cam and her two beautiful 11 year old twin daughters are stressed out and their health is suffering. At our suggestion, they are all now in counseling. Neither Cam nor her girls can think about the food they eat or other policy concerns until they get their safety and housing issues straightened out.    Her landlord fails to maintain the property which has infestations of rats and bedbugs, make repairs as needed, and protect the property from theft, drug dealers, vandalism and violence. The landlord retaliates against the residents if they complain with illegal rent increases, threats of lock outs and tried to evict Cam once unsuccessfully. The landlord fails to allow the children to use recreation property on the grounds, and has hired a tenant to work for her who openly buys and uses illegal drugs on the rental property and harasses the other tenants to the point that one tenant got an ex parte restraining order against this tenant-employee. Cam has contacted many people to come in and see what is going on on the property but nothing has resulted in any change for Cam or other residents who live in fear and intimidation. Her landlord continues to harass her and Cam continues to fight back but the stress is taking a mental and physical toll on Cam and her daughters’ health.


[1] UC Berkeley Labor Center, Fast-Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in The Fast Food Industry, October 15, 2013, Sylvia Allegretto, Marc Doussard, Dave Graham-Squire, Ken Jacobs, Dan Thompson and Jeremy Thompson. Fast food workers are more likely to be killed than police officers. (Food Empowerment Project, Fast Food, Web.))

Statistical Description of the Problem 

“Being born into poverty, not having a job with good wages, lack of a high school education, no regular access to a car, living in a high crime area, living in a neighborhood without access to a quality grocery store nearby, working for a company that does not offer health care coverage, getting pregnant at a very young age, having a physical or mental disability, not speaking English, being a racial minority, lack of home ownership, living in a polluted area are all social determinants that can have a serious impact on one’s health, quality of life and  life expectancy. Experts in public health have known for years that these life conditions can cause chronic health disease and mortality that are distributed unequally to the people who live under these circumstances." --Steve Roling, former CEO of the Health Care Foundation of GKC       

     It is well established that our food, farm and socioeconomic policies are a source of ill health for our nation’s people and are not  largely governed by the interests of average citizens.[1] Immigrants to the US experience a decline in health as do their children who are predicted to earn more but live shorter life spans and have poorer health than their parents.[2]  Hunger in the US has increased to the highest levels since the Great Depression.[3] Our food, farm and socioeconomic policies are identified as  the culprit.[4]

     Further, even when families are not forced to sell their food stamps for rent or other basic necessities, it is well accepted that food stamps are insufficient to meet the nutritional needs of families.[5] Consequently, food stamp recipients who are mostly children, the disabled and the elderly, rely heavily on free sources of food which are notoriously unhealthy.[6]  

     As well, inequity in our food and agriculture and other systems and policies that affect the basic human right to sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food is well documented.[7] While one in six Americans are hungry; Indigenous, Latino, Black and rural Americans are especially hit hard by hunger.[8] More than one in four Latino households experience hunger and one in four Black, non-Latino households experience hunger.[9]

     It is well documented, that these same groups experience serious health disparities.[10]

A recent report also clearly concluded after a thorough study that these health disparities are in part, a result of the lack of sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious , and culturally appropriate food experienced by people in low-income  communities.[11]

     That those communities most directly and negatively impacted are targeted by fast food and other unhealthy food corporations is well documented as well and identified as the culprit of health disparities for these same groups of people. [12] Recent studies show as many as twice as many fast food establishments in low-income Black communities for example than  in similarly sized upper-income predominantly white communities.[13] In addition, for example 8% of Black communities live in a tract with a supermarket compared with to 31% of white communities.[14]  As well, “Not all supermarkets are equal,” concluded one researcher questioning the effectiveness of putting supermarkets in low-income Black communities to curb health epidemics and obesity.[15] This report was referring to what famed Black poet Sonia Sanchez orated about in “Soul Food Junkies:” that the vegetables in her NY community, “looked as if they were on crack.”[16]  

     Furthermore, even in the “best supermarkets” in affluent communities, shoppers face much more “unhealthy food,” soda, sweetened drinks, processed and fatty foods,” than healthy options of whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, fresh vegetables and fruits, one is more likely to find at a farmer’s market.[17] Yet, only a stunning 4.6% of farmers’ markets, a truly healthier food shopping option, are in the most directly and negatively impacted  communities[18]

     While The USDA has designated KC, MO a “food desert,[19] KC Food Justice concluded after our own “KC food justice tour” that both KCMO and KCKS were actually more of a “food swamp,” full of lots of fast food, “filling station food,” fried food, BBQ swimming in fat and sugar and other unhealthy processed foods with a few oasis of healthier choices.[20]                

     These policies will not change until community members from all segments of Greater Kansas City, including those most directly and negatively impacted, have political, social and economic power to shape and influence the decision-making bodies and systems that make the policies that truly set the terms for food and health in our communities. We intend to build this power though intensive, sustained, door to door, grassroots community organizing that includes  those communities most directly and negatively impacted.

[1] Union of Concerned Scientists, Healthy Food and Farm Solutions: Expand Health Food Access, Web.; Center for Disease Control, The Power of Preventions, Chronic Disease, the Public Health Challenge of the 21st Century, Web; Corporate Power in Agriculture and Public Health, farm Aid, Web;, The Global Food System is causing a Public Health Disaster, The Guardian, 9 March 2012, Web. Corporate Food System: Consequences for Public Health, John Ikerd, University of Missouri Web.; National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, US Department of Health and Human Services, Web; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heart Disease Facts, Web; Michio Kushi, The Cancer Prevention Diet: Michio Kushi’s Macrobiotic Blueprint for the Prevention and Relief of Disease, 1993.
[2] Tavernise, The Health Toll of Immigration, NY Times, May 18, 2013.
[3] Center for American Progress, Hunger in America: Suffering we All Pay For, Donald S. Shepard, Elizabeth Setren and Donna Cooper, October 2011.
[4] Id.; Union of Concerned Scientists, Healthy Food and Farm Solutions: Expand Health Food Access, Web.

[5] (Food stamps Insufficient to Meet the Nutritional Needs of Families, Institute of Medicine, SNAP Program: Examining the Evidence to Define Benefit Adequacy, January 17, 2013, Web.)
[6] Tracie Cone,”I Kept Seeing People Come through the (Food Bank) line and they were getting fatter and fatter. I realized we were killing them.” Huff Post, Los Angeles, Web.; CSI Report, Achieving Racial Equity in our Food and Agriculture Systems, attached in “other” section. )

[7] Center for Social Inclusion, Achieving Racial Equity in our Food and Agriculture Systems, attached in “Other.”)
[8] (Food Research and Action Council, Disparities in Food Insecurity, Web.)
[9] Id.
[10] (National Center for Health Statistics (2011). Health, United States, 2010: Retrieved from on March 4, 2012; 2010 Equality Index, State of Black Kansas City, Urban League of Greater Kansas City and Center for Full Employment and Price Stability, UMKC; State of Missouri Health Disparities Report: Promoting Health Equity & Reducing Health Disparities in Missouri, May 2008, Web.; Dr. David Williams, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, New Report on Health Disparities in Kansas, 2009,
[11] (Policy Link, The Grocery Gap, Web.)
[12] Andrea Freeman, Fast Food: Oppression through Poor Nutrition, California Law Review, [Vol. 95:2221] Web.); Salt, Sugar and Fat, How the Fast Food Giants Hooked US, Michael Moss; Policy Link, Access to Healthy Food, Web.; Maria Whittaker, Food Justice Pictorial Essay of Urban Core KCMO,
[13] (Fast Food: Oppression through Poor Nutrition, Id., Policy Link, Access to Healthy Food, Web. JP Block, Fast Food, Race/Ethnicity, and, 2004 Web.)
[14] Policy Link, The Grocery Gap, Web.)  
[15] (Gina Kolkata, Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity, NY Times, Web., April 17, 2012.)
[16] Byron Hurt, Soul Food Junkies Transcript, Web. 2013.
[17] (Gina Kolkata, Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity, NY Times, Web., April 17, 2012.)
[18] . (Center for Social Inclusion, Achieving Racial Equity in our Food and Agriculture Systems, attached in “Other.”) 
[19] (USDA, Food Desert Locator, and Web.), (KC, KS was not deemed  a “food desert” because many residents had vehicles. Id.)  
[20] Kolkata, Id.; Maria Whittaker, Pictorial Essay of Food in the Urban Core of KCMO,

KC Food Justice Policy Agenda
1. "CHILD CENTERED Policy. Overall economic growth will not be seen as a priority, and GDP will be seen as a misleading measure of well-being and progress. Instead, indicators of community wealth creation—including measures of social and natural capital—will be closely watched, and special attention will be given to children and young people—their education and their right to loving care, shelter, good nutrition, health care, a toxic-free environment, and freedom from violence."

    2. The expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. More Americans and GKC citizens than ever before are now dependent upon food stamps.  This is primarily due to the great recession we have been experiencing, the worst since the great Depression.  Consequently, to ensure full health for all people, we must expand food stamps to meet this need. As well, food stamps are one of the strongest economic stimuli, and their expansion will boost our anemic economic recovery, increasing food justice, not just for those currently hungry, but preventing many others from becoming hungry as well by stimulating our economy to produce more living wage jobs.  We are working with our 100 national and regional partners through the GOAT (Getting Our Act Together Coalition) on the Farm Bill, which the Congress is currently negotiating, to ensure SNAP benefits for our nation and GKC’s hungry children, seniors and disabled people, most of those currently receiving SNAP benefits.

(On November 1, 2013, a $5 Billion SNAP cut went  into effect as a result of the termination of the a prior economic stimulus plan. This is predicted to cut every family’s Snap benefits which average $200 per family, by $40.)

3.       Improving the Healthiness of Free Food.  In this regard as well, most directly and negatively impacted communities  are  largely dependent on free food for their nutrition because food stamps and their meager incomes fall far short of meeting their families’ nutritional needs. Yet much of this free food is extremely unhealthy and comes at a large cost to community members; this freed food is actually not free but costly in terms of public health.  

4.       Overall Agricultural and Food Policy-The Farm Bill. The farm Bill is a multi-billion dollar package of legislation which is passed by Congress every five to seven years and which establishes programs of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) , one of the largest federal agencies, second in size only to the Department of Defense.  The Farm bill influences the safety, production, marketing, access to and environmental impact of food.  The previous Farm Bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, directed spending of over $28 billion dollars.

How Farm Bill funds are allocated across different titles influences what is grown, how crops are grown, costs and food prices, and availability and is consequently the cornerstone of food related health in our communities. 

For example, prominently, the Commodity Title in the Farm Bill, the largest Farm Bill expenditure after SNAP, provides over billions annually to farmers who produce wheat, feed grains, cotton, rice, oil seed, peanuts, sugar and dairy, which become the primary components for our nation’s unhealthy, cheap and processed food including fast food.  By contrast, less than $400 Million per year is spent on vegetables and fruits, “specialty crops”, which the USDA itself now recommends as 50% of our diet for full health. 

New research from the Union of Concerned Scientists reveals that thousands of lives and billions of dollars could be saved if Americans ate more fruits and vegetables in accordance with the aforementioned USDA dietary guidelines.  Modest public investments, for which we will advocate in collation with our partners, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, could bolster production of fruits and vegetables, removing barriers currently written into farm policy that prevent farmers from growing these crops, increasing consumer access to healthy foods and huge health benefits to the American people. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that more than 127,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease could be prevented, and $17 Billion in annual national medical costs could be saved.

5. .       Federal Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act

This Act, currently open for comments is the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years.  Currently, some are concerned that this law attacks small and family sustainable farmers who typically grow fruits and vegetables recommended by the USDA for our health.

6.       Federal Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.  U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller have introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015, and adjust it each year thereafter to keep pace with the rising cost of living. This bill would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current low rate of $2.13 per hour, where it has been frozen since 1991, to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

Many of GKC's community members most directly and negatively impacted by our nation;s food, agriculture and socio-economic policies are working part-time for minimum wage.  Many have temporary jobs as well. Under these conditions, they cannot afford food to feed their families.  An increase in the minimum wage would go a long way toward enabling our poorest community members to afford sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious, culturally appropriate food for full health and to reduce hunger.  We believe increasing the minimum wage is the root cause solution to hunger and healthy disparities caused by cheap, fast and processed food.

7.       Food Workers and raising the minimum wage and getting them paid sick days.  Many of our target community members are, have been food workers, or have family members who are food workers, either fast food workers or other food workers. Consequently, one of our key policy agendas which particularly galvanizes our base is increasing the wages for tipped workers and getting them paid sick days.  Many have to work when they are sick because of the lack of paid sick days, making, themselves, their coworkers and restaurant patrons more ill. According to our good national allies, the Food Chain Worker’s Alliance, of the 20 million people who work in the food system in the United States, more than half (10 million workers) earn less than the poverty line for a family of three. The Food Chain Worker’s Alliance’s (FCWA) report, “The Hands That Feed Us,” released in June 2012, also found that food workers use food stamps at 1.5 times the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce and face hunger at 1.2 times the rate of all other workers. The FCWA also reports that nationally, 3 out of 5 food workers are African American, Latino or Southeast Asian; Latinos are the fastest growing population in the US and key to the demographic changes our country is experiencing. 

78       Housing Justice: a prerequisite to Food Justice. Shortly after beginning our door to door outreach to our target community we identified issues of housing justice that needed addressed: i.e., failing to make needed repairs such that residents injured themselves in the property through for example slipping and falling, failing to collect and properly dispose of garbage and waste in a sanitary manner, untreated infestations of rats, and bedbugs, failing to take safety precautions in the face of murders and other rampant crimes, retaliatory evictions and rent hikes if residents complained, barring of service providers from access to residents, barring children and youth from recreational areas, failing to sanction employees and residents who harassed residents and who were even slapped with restraining orders for doing so, failing to allow residents access to their mail, and creating a general  hostile and unhealthy environment of subjugation, exploitation,  threats and intimidation,  domination and sadism, where residents were so stressed, traumatized and afraid that their physical and mental health and the physical and mental health of their children was deteriorating. This was compounded by the trauma of physical violence, crime and murders in these communities about which these landlords failed to take any action despite receiving significant funds to do so.

While we are working to specifically address these disease causing living conditions for residents, we are also beginning to think of policies that might be changes that would result in healthy lives with dignity for community members and their children.  No one can enjoy full health living under this type of oppression.

9.       Community Safety: a prerequisite to Food Safety. Besides issues of Housing Justice, community safety and that failure of the criminal justice system to provide full safety for our target community was a great source of direct ill health in our target community and prevented community members from being able to engage in healthy lifestyle activities.  Residents constantly complained of being afraid to go outside and for their children.  All of which was justified as there was a murder in the neighborhoods while we were organizing in full view of many of the residents and their children.  Not only are we working to negotiate improved community safety for community members, but together we are working to identify policies which would serve the community and their children better.  Without community safety, community members cannot enjoy Food or health justice.

10.       Criminal Justice Policies, Civic Engagement and Food and Agriculture Policy. Michelle Alexander’s well-received Book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness has recently been cited by US Attorney General Holder as support for reforming our criminal justice laws which Dr. Alexander has identified as significant bars to civic engagement by those people most affected by our nation’s criminal justice system.  In a recent Bill Moyers report, he identified that 12 states, including Missouri,  barred persons convicted of certain felonies from voting and that this had significantly impacted the results of the Presidential race between Al Gore and George bush and several key Senate races. These criminal justice policies also directly and negatively impact those already most directly and negatively impacted by our nation’s food and agriculture policy and bar these same people from civic engagement on their own behalf that might enhance their and their communities’ food and health. 

      As well, Missouri has some policies which prevent persons and their families convicted of certain felony offenses from ever receiving food stamps. Consequently, we plan to work in coalition with local and national partners to investigate how we might restore full civic engagement and food stamp  rights to those GKC communities and individuals directly and negatively affected by both our criminal justice and food and agriculture policies to enhance full health in all GKC communities.

11.   Education, Immigration Rights.  Primarily in coalition with our local partners such as MORE2 and CCO, we intend to work on issues of immigration rights and equal education, all prerequisites to Food Justice and full health. Many of our community members are Somali, other African Haitian, Latino and Asian  immigrants, seeking healthier lives here in the United States from their war torn homes.

Staffing and Capacity
     Maria Whitaker, Program Director  is a locally and nationally known food sovereignty/ justice advocate working to facilitate bottom-up, grassroots community organizing and coalition building from the local to the national levels to transform the power relationships and institutional structures that are determining our food, health and wealth.[1] As an attorney, she practiced poverty law, representing indigent individuals in landlord tenant matters especially evictions and employment discrimination law.  Her training in grassroots community organizing is from BOLD, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity.   Ms. Whittaker taught business and international business law at the Ohio State University.
          After falling in love with sustainable agriculture as a volunteer at KC's own Cultivate KC, formerly the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, Ms. Whitaker who practiced horticulture, returned to graduate school to study sustainable agriculture and environmental policy at the University of Michigan School for Natural Resources and the Environment.  After studying there, she began blending her background in law and community organizing  with her interest in  food, farm and environmental policy.  

     Ms. Whitaker studied nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and has been engaged in healthy lifestyle activities such as gardening, swimming, and dance since she was 7. Ms.  Whitaker graduated from Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School. She studied international law at the London School of Economics. She speaks Spanish, French, Kiswahili and some Mandarin Chinese.

Kathryn Gilje—Consultant on Strategy, Organization, Policy,  Grassroots Fundraising 

 Kathryn Gilje is Executive Director of the Ceres Trust and lead consultant for Strategic Currents, LLC. Kathryn previously was director and co-director of the Pesticide Action Network North America. Kathryn co-founded and co-directed Centro Campesino, a membership organization of migrant agricultural workers, rural Latino/as and allies in southern Minnesota. She was senior associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, focused on marketing sustainable agriculture and U.S. farm policy. She spent several years on small farms in Minnesota, raising chickens, milking goats and promoting access to healthy, local and fair food. Now, she raises bees and vegetables in Oakland, California. Her training comes from the Organizing Apprenticeship Project, Farm Labor Organizing Committee and through Hispanics in Philanthropy at the Kellogg School of Management. She studied agronomy and environmental science at the University of Minnesota.

Kamau Franklin-- Consultant on Grassroots Community Organizing and Constitutional Law

     As an activist attorney, Kamau has worked on a variety of legal areas including criminal, civil and human rights issues. His legal work included two-years as the Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he was one of the lead attorneys on a federal class action lawsuit against the New York City Police Departments notorious stop and frisk tactics and racial profiling.  His community activist work in New York for over fifteen years was focused on grassroots campaign organizing and building grassroots institutions. He has worked on various issues including community cop-watch programs, freedom schools for youth and alternatives to incarceration programs. Kamau has also written articles for various on-line publications, including Left Turn, and Organizing Upgrade on organizing and activism and U.S. foreign policy.  Kamau is married to Edget Betru and has a daughter, Maya Betru-Abiodun, and they live in Atlanta.

Ife Kilimanjaro--Grant Writing and Fundraising Consultant

Rachelle Horne--Community Food Justice Leader

Dana Gardner--Community Food Justice Leader

Crystal McCorry--Community Food Justice Leader

Brain Samuels--Youth Community Food Justice Leader

Steering Committee

Linda Quinn, Community Food Organizer, Kansas State Universiity
Sonja Robinson, RN,  Swope Parkway Health Services
Brianna Perrill, Executive Director, KC Ida B. Wells Anti-Racism Coalition, KC IWW
Rhonda Janke, Professor, Kansas State University School of Horticulture
Allen Shephard, Community Leaders
Alonzo Samuels, Community Leaders
Rachelle Howard, Community Leader
Tuma Banku, Community Leader

Advisory Board

Ben Kjelshus,
Lora McDonald
Dr. Clovis Semmes 
Kathryn Evans
Matt Quinn
Timothy Woodward
Marta Benavides
Helen Torrence Bey
Malik Yakini
Monica White
Charity Hicks
Humphrey Omukuti 
Dr. Timothy Woodward

Organizational Information
"KC food Justice" is a program of the Kansas and Missouri Chapters of Family Farm Defenders, dba Local to Global Advocates for Food Sovereignty, It was founded by Maria Whitaker,  a nationally known food sovereignty, food justice advocate with the support of many other local and national food justice and sovereignty activists and advocates. The Kansas and Missouri Chapter of Family Farm Defenders is registered as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Kansas.  Family Farm Defenders is a 501(c)(3) organization. registered in the state of Wisconsin.


Contact KC Food Justice at:
3156 Wood View Ridge Drive
Suite 205

Kansas City, KS 66103
913 945 1333
and like our facebook pages, Local to Global Advocate for Justice and the Food, Health and Environmental Justice Coalition.

"The world itself needs us to show up in our fullness because the world itself is suffering a dis-ease, suffering ultimately from the human mind with all its precocities in some areas and its huge lack of development in other areas. The world needs all its flowers, every single one, even if they bloom for the briefest of moments we call a lifetime. Can we realize the flowering that our life actually is and open to it for the cultivation of mindfulness in ways that will give it back to us in its fullness and allow us to live our lives as if they really mattered, because they do, and in this way experiencing the flowering of genuine happiness and wisdom, self-compassion and compassion for others, in ways that are healing for ourselves and for the world we are all inhabiting, which never were actually separate.

"May you walk in beauty every day. May you stand in your truth. May you wake up to the beauty within you and around you for the sake of yourself and for the sake of all beings, near and far, known and unknown." ---Jon Kabat Zinn

"In order to save the food system, (and ourselves) we have to transform the economic system...We need transformative reform; we need to change the rules of our global, big corporate, industrialized food, ag and socioeconomic systems...Progressives and radicals must unite for truly trans formative food and social movements."--Eric Golt-Jiminez, ED Food First

"Grassroots movements which make a prominent and equitable place for leadership and constituency of the people most deeply  and negatively affected are among the strongest forces in our society to hold public policymakers and private corporations accountable to enacting policy which promotes public health." (EAT4Health Program (Everyone at the Table for Health))

Youth and Food Justice:
Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement
By Anim Steel
Improving the health of our youth will require a transformation of our
food system. This in turn will require strong social movements capable of
creating the political will to truly transform how we grow, buy, prepare, and
eat food. Lessons from the civil rights era of the 1960s suggest a way that
today’s food justice movement can organize. In particular, a new, youth led,
multiracial coalition could unleash the voice and energy of those with
the most to gain from transforming the food system—young people.
The political disenfranchisement addressed by the civil rights movement
in the 1960s, and the cheap, unhealthy food plaguing our underserved
communities both reflect structural inequities that marginalize people of
color. We can’t change the food system by simply changing the tastes and
attitudes of regular people any more than the civil rights movement could
end segregation without the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Beyond the personal,
these transformations require political, economic, and cultural changes.
Just as with the civil rights movement, transformation needs to be local,
national, and international. Social movements will play a deciding role in
creating the political will for change just as they did with civil rights.
To become a strong national force, the food justice movement needs a
youth-led organization that unifies and amplifies these disparate efforts—a
modern-day food justice version of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Campaign (SNCC). Such an organization should celebrate and encourage
the diversity of local work; the best local solutions come from local
communities. But it should do what local organizations often have a harder
time doing: focus the national spotlight, spread innovation, involve masses
of people, and harness our collective political and economic power. Such an
organization should prioritize the voices of those most hurt by the system,
even as it welcomes the contributions of all who care.

Youth Food Movements Unite!
Full Article at:

"Historically the development of civilization has been  based on conquests, exploitation and plundering of natural and human resources for the benefit of those who had power. This needs to be replaced by Love, recognition of Spiritual Unity and inter-dependence of all beings and all things in this universe. We are in it together. The universe is run according to Divine Order. We need to understand the underlying laws and processes instead of making punitive value judgments. "---Human Liberation 

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” ― Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah  

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."--Lilah Watson, Indigenous Australian artist and academic

"Poor diets kill more brothers than pistols
We're fighting for our lives like Michal Vic's pit bulls.
Dog eat Dog, America eats the young,
We die from beef, but more form meat than the gun.
Bullets for breakfast and mass murder meals.
enemy of the state and your plate is the Battlefield
in this FOOD FIGHT!"                                                             

Collaborators or Partners: Insitutions
The Praxis Project
Toronto Afri-Can Food Basket
Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council
JwJ Lincoln University
Black Health Care Coalition
Growing Food and Justice Initiative
Black Urban Gardeners
Kellogg Foundation

National Latino Ranchers and Farmers Association
Family Farm Defenders
Baha'i Community of Greater Kansas City
Kansas City MO Public Library
Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
Urban League of Greater Kansas City
Kansas City Black United Front
Kansas City Jobs with Justice
Kansas City IWW 
Johnson County Community College
Communities Creating Opportunities
Cross Border Network
Cultivate KC


Collaborators or Partners:  Individuals
Loree and Ken Gross
Barb McAtee
William Dunning
Ryan Tenney
DJCavem Moetavation
LaMont James
Reverend Ryan Thrasher
Brianna Perril 

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