Ricardo Salvador calls for food justice

On October 5, we are honored to host Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, as our keynote speaker at Light up the Redd, our annual benefit and celebration of people, place, and food.

by Molly Simas, Communications Intern

At the New England Farm to Institution Summit in Massachusetts last April, keynote speaker Ricardo Salvador didn’t mince words.

“The nation’s food system still bears the imprint of its origins as a system for exploiting people and nature,” Salvador said during the conference’s opening plenary. “Addressing the root causes of hunger and diet-related chronic disease will require confronting society’s need for greater justice.”

Salvador — Director of the Food and Environment Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists — challenged the term “broken food system,” a phrase commonly used by food systems professionals to describe the status quo. While the system is certainly untenable, Salvador suggests that it functions precisely as it was designed — by concentrating wealth and power in the hands of an elite few, while externalizing human and environmental costs.

For more than 200 years, slavery in the U.S. agricultural system out-competed wage labor, generating substantial wealth that funded geographical expansion and industrial growth. Today, rather than wealthy plantation owners, the food system’s “elite few” are corporations, but the exploited populations remain the same: primarily Latino Americans, Native Americans, and African Americans. In concert with continued labor and wage disparities in the food system, these communities experience higher incidences of poverty, food insecurity, obesity, and diet-related diseases.

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