Ah, if only our bodies featured an ever-growing fruit basket a la Arcimboldo, then food distribution would be at our hands, from our faces. Exploring the metaphysics of food includes the portrayals of its production and distribution. The seed I hold in my hand has a real growth potential and biochemistry to its existence; just waiting for water, air and soil to conspire in real patterns of natural, universal existence. However, the story of food also enunciates who plants and harvests crops, how farmers and ranchers respect the animals they raise and kill, where distribution centers direct food to those in need, and what foods receive attention and support–a story of moving food to those suffering from hunger. At the very heart of the seed, a matter of perception and the power of narrative. Esther Ndichu of the World Food Program explains.
Food First offers a view of “hunger myths,” which obstruct effective and sustainable food solutions. For all these ineffective illusions to disappear, premises based on accepted definitions of human existence and behavior must be offered. Justice and further back to the Latin jus poses and attempts to answer the question what is right, what is law? Aristotle in Book 5 of the Nicomachean Ethics defines justice as fairness within equitable distributions. Our turning of a labyrinth of food justice centers on an impartial sharing of goods–delivery of what people need when and where they need it, without unfair choices or practices. John Rawls in his essay Justice as Fairness emphasizes “fair equality of opportunity,” which also offers a crucial definition of fair food distribution. Martha Nussbaum in her consideration of Aristotle and Rawls finds a shared emphasis on practical reason and schemes of cooperation.
Given these definitions of good and fair, along with the opportunity to maintain one’s life, what it means to be a human being, to be a citizen includes equitable distribution of what sustains life. One solution for one part of the problem addresses food waste and ways to channel unused food to those who need it.
A key word–regeneration–appears within community-based, sustainable farming which centers on distribution of a farmer’s products to subscribers who receive recently harvested foods. Growth each season finds its way to mouths hungry to eat–those who support a farm enriching the soil with their farming practices. Thus, a cycle of regeneration from soil to humans.
One further turn of the labyrinth takes us to the Minotaur of fast-food made available at cheap prices to everyone, but especially targeting those living on very limited means. The great Anthony Bourdain talks to Chef Daniel Patterson about healthy, affordable food in the Bay Area. The question of food justice in our time has many answers, many turns of the nautilus shell to healthy living for all. Bon Appétit!