Giving Compass' Take:

• Jim Giles, writing for GreenBiz, discusses discrimination in the food system and how systemic disparities in the food chain are severely impacting communities of color.

• How can donors fund systems change movements that also impact food justice? 

• Read how the food justice movement is looking to create equity. 

The team at GreenBiz started Food Weekly to track progress toward a better food system. But as protestors filled streets across America last week, I was reminded that a critical question about this effort often goes unasked: Better for whom?

We have to ask this question because we can't assume that any progress we make will be inclusive. Systems can evolve and remain discriminatory. We’ve seen this happen in housing, education, criminal justice and so many other areas of our society where people of color are marginalized or punished. Food and farming are no different.

If this seems questionable, take a look at farm ownership. A century ago, there were a million black farmers in the United States. Now there are around 45,000. On average, they earn a fifth of white farmers. Reasons include predatory practices by developers and systematic discrimination by government loan officers.

Communities of color also lose out at the other end of the food chain. In a disproportionate number of low-income black neighborhoods, redlining, segregation and weak zoning laws have led to the proliferation of junk food outlets and a lack of healthy alternatives. Food deserts — or "food swamps," which one researcher argues is a better term — are linked to obesity and other health problems.

These disparities are systematic and ingrained and very much with us today. They are one reason among many for the anger we are seeing right now. And history tells us that these forces, unless we actively resist them, will distort attempts to improve our food system. They will prevent "better" from meaning better for everyone.

Yet advocates for sustainable food — and I’m including myself here — are often guilty of treating racism as an urgent problem that somehow isn’t our problem. It’s an issue across the sustainability profession, in fact.

Read the full article about discrimination in the food system by Jim Giles at GreenBiz.