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SFJFS Session 2 Insights

Come to the Table’s School for Food Justice, Faith, and Storytelling (SFJFS) held its second session on February 2, featuring a presentation on the prevalence of food insecurity and food apartheid in the U.S. food system.

While this cohort of SFJFS is not open for new members, we thought it would be helpful to share five insights from each session with our network. The second cohort for SFJFS will begin in the fall of 2023. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on the latest information from the Come to the Table team.

Five Insights from Session 2


Low-access food areas are not naturally occurring. Historical policies, structural issues, corporate greed, and other factors have had an intentional effect on creating these settings.

  • A key takeaway for many participants was that low-access food areas are not created in a vacuum. After a presentation on the concept of “food apartheid” and a case study on food access in the city of Durham, participants examined the multiple factors at play which led to the creation of our food landscape, for better or worse.

The concept of food deserts can be inaccurate and misleading, as it pulls from the focus of the root causes that lead to these low-access areas.

  • We examined Karen Washington’s critique of the often-used term “food desert” and how it oversimplifies a very complex issue. The term “food desert” assumes a food landscape is barren, presupposes that more grocery stores will fix the problem, and is a term imposed upon communities. 

Root cause analysis is required to meet the challenges of an issue like food insecurity and food access.

  • Fellows participated in a root cause analysis of food insecurity, naming over 15 different factors that can lead to food insecurity. For example, systemic racism, low wages and un(der)employment, lack of transportation, and chronic health conditions were among the topics discussed. This was a helpful exercise to form our understanding of the depth of root causes that can lead to food insecurity.

Listening is an often overlooked yet imperative step in community work. Creating a safe environment in which all voices can be heard, feel safe sharing, and be motivated to be vulnerable are ways to begin this process.

  • In a conversation about how faith communities can address food insecurity and food access, one participant urged others to be intentional about listening to the people they serve. Often, a goal or mission is set by the organizing group and imposed on the people they serve, failing to consider what is already happening and what might be needed in the community. 

Food ministries should consider how they can expand their work to address root causes of food insecurity, like dealing with housing, healthcare, and minimum wage legislation.

  • In order to get to the heart of our food access issues, we must be willing to integrate a myriad of other policy solutions into our work. Paying attention and advocating for legislation that addresses the issues mentioned above are ways to promote the well-being of people experiencing food insecurity. 
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