Food justice: Turning private choices into public issues

Patricia Boling, Purdue University
Chiara Cervini, Purdue University

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This paper uses distinctions between differing senses of “private,” “public” and “political” in the United States to argue for the value of framing food issues as a collective problem that calls for broadscale demands for justice from citizens. We argue that food choices do not simply belong to the realm of private preferences and market transactions. Rather, they are a set of decisions that have systemic causes and public consequences. They are shaped and constrained by public policies that underwrite the transportation of food over long distances as well as particular crops and foodstuffs, and by the vendors and advertisers who work hard to convince us to eat more of the foods they produce. Because the consequences of eating an abundance of empty calories are not easily remedied at the personal level, citizens need to demand public, systemic solutions, including better food information, youth food education, and a healthier food supply.