Welcome to my first blog post! Today I want to tell you about our increasing commitment to the idea of Equity and our role as social justice advocates in the hunger relief arena.
After doing a lot of research, The Food Group defines Equity as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.” In short, the term is directly related to the idea of ACCESS. As you’ve probably heard me say repeatedly, ACCESS is central to our mission.
Below you will see an illustration that is often used to help people understand what Equity is about. Equity recognizes that we do not all start in the same place. We also recognize that systems and policies have been designed in a way that allows unequal access to opportunities. All of these people want access to seeing over the fence. If we focus on equality and give them the same boxes that solution doesn’t provide each of them equal access. If they’re each given boxes better designed for their needs, they achieve the same amount of access—that result is Equity. Even better is the third image where all three can see the game without any supports or accommodations because the systemic barrier has been removed.
A speaker at a conference I was at last year said that equality is like giving everyone a pair of shoes, but equity is giving everyone a pair of shoes that fit.
There’s no question that Equity is a more complex and challenging concept than Equality. Instead of treating everyone the same, with Equity we focus on results and outcomes. That means we have to be willing to intentionally listen, research, and understand the needs of the people we are accountable to first, and then design our programs and services to better meet those needs.
Equity as a foundation of our work in hunger relief
Examples of Equity in our work are sourcing foods that are culturally familiar to various communities, making sure that food shelves and meal programs have signs and paperwork in multiple languages, and looking at how our own policies and practices unintentionally perpetuate inequity in our communities. If this all sounds like it takes more thought and intention, well, yes it does!
We knew if we wanted to ramp up our commitment to Equity, we’d need someone focused on it full time, so we’ve actually added a new staff position as our Equity Specialist. We’re focused not only on helping our partners, but also working to deepen equity internally; our board of directors passed an Equity Value Statement to guide our own work here at The Food Group. This isn’t just rhetoric for us – we are committed to walking the walk. We firmly believe that where a person lives, how much money they make, or the color of their skin should NEVER influence their ability to access healthy and culturally appropriate foods. Through collaboration with other organizations in the community we envision a time when there is a more equitable and just food system for all.
The Food Group’s Equity Statement:
Equity is fundamental to our mission to fight hunger and nourish our community. Where we live, how much money we make, or the color of our skin currently influences access to healthy and culturally-appropriate foods. We must address the roots of these inequities so everyone in our community has the opportunity to live their best life. We believe in working with our community and organizations to improve food access and make systemic changes in hunger relief. To do so, we must include equity in all aspects of our work. We invite individuals from different abilities, ethnicities, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds to take part in and shape our work.
This post was written by TFG Executive Director Lori Kratchmer. For more information please contact Equity Specialist Samty Xiong.