The plan aims to dismantle inequities illuminated by the coronavirus.
Boston Mayoral Candidate and City Councilor Michelle Wu launched her latest policy plan on October 20, “A Food Justice Agenda for a Resilient Boston.” The plan focuses on the problems within a food system that is interwoven with injustices, as exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. It demonstrates how addressing food security is bound up in the need for broader change, which includes progress in dismantling racial inequities, supporting local economies, and preserving the environment.
“This is really a plan that we tried to anchor in the moment, as a recovery and resilience agenda,” said policy director Grace May. “Councilor Wu wanted to think structurally about how food touches every single person’s life, connecting us directly to a web of political choices and policy decisions. As our team combats the underlying disparities and inequities in Boston – from who can afford and access food to how we care for food chain workers – we want to figure out, how do we go to the source and rethink things from the grassroots up?”
Wu’s plan calls for a series of steps that will strengthen food systems. These include bringing workers’ voices to the negotiating table, raising the minimum wage of food chain workers, and offering predictable scheduling. It also asks for the stabilization of restaurant jobs and support for Black and minority owned businesses. Wu hopes to expand access to fresh and nutritious food, by fostering urban agriculture and promoting farmers’ markets and small-scale food retail. The plan would implement a Good Food Purchasing ordinance in Boston Public Schools and other city agencies, while building on food system coalitions.
Policy Fellow Tali Robbins said that throughout the plan, racial justice remains an important part of the program.
“Through each of the five sections of this plan, racial equity and racial justice are woven in,” said Robbins. “We know that food service jobs in Boston are disproportionately held by people of color, and particularly women of color, and that these jobs pay some of the lowest wages in the city. During the pandemic, one in eight workers reported that they have experienced retaliation from their employers for reporting unsafe working conditions, and we know that rate is twice as high among Black workers compared to other workers.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.