The United States has seen the opening of more than 167 food cooperatives since 2006, according to the Food Co-op Initiative (FCI). Within this movement, Black-led co-ops are tackling food access and racial justice, which can help to fulfill a community’s needs while addressing systemic inequalities to restore power to the people.

Community members themselves own, manage, and govern food co-ops. “They’re about the collective buying power, the collective political power, and especially the collective people power,” says Jasmine Ratliff, Co-Executive Director of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA).

Largely due to historic, systemic disparities in economic resources, Black communities often experience barriers to food sovereignty. Ratliff describes food sovereignty as the right for people to define their own food and agriculture systems, and this is inherently bound up with racial injustice.

Racialized land disenfranchisement is one obstacle to participating in the food system. “We think back into the 1920s when there were nearly 1 million Black farmers in the United States, and now we’re less than one percent of farmers,” Ratliff says.

While the Black community experiences limited control within the food system as producers, ripple effects are felt by consumers who face a lack of food access. A study by the Center of American Progress reports that for over two decades, Black households have been twice as likely to experience food insecurity than white households. In 2020, 21.7 percent of Black households and 7.1 percent of white households experienced food insecurity.

Read the full article about Black-led food co-ops by Katelyn Yee at Food Tank.