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Here’s how you can make this change
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Here’s how you can make this change

A group of people dressed colourfully talk over a table


The pandemic – alongside growing threats from climate change, widespread malnutrition, economic instability and geopolitical conflict – has heightened problems with the ways we produce, distribute and consume food. And it’s made clear the urgent need to make global Food systemsContinue reading.

An example of modern food injustice is that if you’re poor or an ethnic minority in the US, you’re Less likelyAccess to healthy food is easy. This situation is made worse by COVID-19, has been called Food apartheid. It’s also often the case that corporations, not local growers, ControlThe food produced by communities: Taking money out of their hands.

If this is to change, it’s important to understandWho wins in existing food systems, and more importantly, who loses when they are pushed to the sidelines and denied access to healthy food.

This is why food system designers need to consider how different factors affect the final outcome. Someone is marginalized – like gender, age, disability, ethnicity and religion – can combine or intersect, making some people more vulnerable.

International development programmes run by governments and charities are often focused on women, as they are vulnerable. However, this can lead to the neglect of other causes of poverty such as race and class issues, which could marginalize other vulnerable populations.

This kind of simplifying when deciding who receives resources in Tanzania has been shown to strengthen existing power hierarchies within communities, meaning that those who had little social power to begin with – such as poorer women – don’t get to benefit from the resources provided.

A group of people dressed colourfully talk over a table
To ensure system improvements, it is important to include people in the processes that are designed to assist them.
Wikimedia, CC BY

In contrast, research showsDevelopment projects that take into account local community norms tend to be more successful. In Bangladesh, for example, both men and women from Hindu communities and Muslim communities work in wetlands. However, each group has a different role. Researchers found that community management projects performed better when people acted in accordance to their traditional roles, according to gender and religion.

A multi-disciplinary approach allows us to move beyond Simplistic categories like the “vulnerable woman”, instead drawing attention to the unequal flows of power that shape access to resources. This should be embedded at every level of food science in order to ensure that marginalised and vulnerable people are at forefront of the change.

Power dynamics

It’s also vital to understand how power dynamics structure decisions within food systems, whether that’s within households or inside government institutions.

When dealing with issues faced by girls and women in Burundi, CARE InternationalIn collaboration with local men gender equality champions, we analysed power systems, reflected on gender roles, and encouraged equal, active participation. participationWomen in community decision-making. Outcomes included improvements in agricultural productivity as well as increasing women’s empowerment and gender equality.

A person dances in green and white clothes
Engaging more people can be as simple as exploring food and social justice through dance, or other creative methods.
Piqsels, CC BY

It is crucial to create safe, inclusive spaces for marginalised voices. This can be achieved through creative methods such as theatre, dance, and music.

For example, Roktim: Nurture IncarnadineAnonymous Ananya Dance Theatre
Production, which explores feminist food policy through dance. Their performance focuses on issues related to sustainability and justice within food systems and demonstrates how community action can be powerful.


The ongoing failure of food systems is due to historical injustice. We need to understand the impact of colonialism on food processes and how it continues today to shape global food systems.

The colonial government of Zambia was established in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. Promoted maize productionOver that of native crops like millet or sorghum. Nowadays, maize production continues to receive substantial support, with almost 80% of the government’s annual agricultural budgetSpending on maize production. Consequently, maize – which provides limited nutrients – dominates the Zambian diet, contributing to chronic food InsecurityIn the region.

A person holds an ear of maize
Maize’s complex history reveals how food systems can be influenced by historical bias.
CimmyT/Flickr, CC BY

Researchers need to consider how to design food systems better. ColonizationThese were the people who shaped them. This allows us acknowledge how colonial practices of exploitation, destruction, such the transatlantic slave trading, are reflected today in the maize-dominated food system across Africa.

Decolonizing researchThis can encourage us to challenge power, privilege, and inequality in research. For example, it’s usually scholars from developed countries, rather than their counterparts in developing countries, who set research agendas and determine how money is spent.

Research from around the world is often published only in English, limiting the accessibility of that information within communities where English isn’t spoken.

Science has been viewed historically as a process of discovery. Unbiased observation. However, all research is influenced by cultural biases. As researchers, we are deeply influenced and influenced by our values. Understanding how scientific knowledge is created is key to justice.

From the co-development of agricultural technologies to the design and launch of food programmes, researchers have a huge impact on what kind of science gets prioritised – and who benefits from it.


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