Learn with us! We are all continually growing our knowledge of food systems and food justice! At the top of this page, we offer definitions for some of the key terms in our work. Below, we share an on-going resource list of food systems podcasts, videos, general reading, and academic articles and reports. We welcome suggestions on the kinds of resources you would like to see! Please contact [email protected] to share feedback.
Please visit our Strategic Goals webpage for more information about our commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion.
Defining our language
What is ‘gleaning’?
The USDA defines gleaning as “simply the act of collecting excess fresh foods from farms, gardens, farmers markets, grocers, restaurants, state/county fairs, or any other source in order to provide it to those in need.” Gleaning not only diverts excess quality food from waste, but it can also help us see where there are gaps in support for how our food is being distributed. To learn more, visit the website for the National Gleaning project!
What is a ‘food system’?
The term ‘food system’ is used to describe the pathway that our food takes to get to us — this includes initial planning, planting, growing, harvesting, packaging, shipping and distribution, and purchase and consumption. Depending on the scale of the food system, the number of steps in the process can be smaller or larger. At City Fruit, we advocate for supporting our local food systems whenever possible — by buying from and supporting local growers, we can eliminate waste that comes from packaging and shipping foods from far away, prioritize growing practices that protect the earth, and empower the workers that harvest, raise, and catch our food.
What is ‘sustainable’?
City Fruit uses the term ‘sustainable’ when describing goals for how food is grown and distributed within our food system. A sustainable food system is one that strives to eliminate resource waste and environmental damage, but also one that empowers and supports food producers and consumers.
What is ‘organic’?
USDA certified organic foods “are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible” (USDA, 2022). It is important to note that many farmers (particularly small-scale growers) practice organic farming, but do not have the resources to apply for the USDA organic label. Ask your local farmers about their growing practices and support your local food system! All Seattle public orchard fruit trees are managed using an organic tree care regiment.
What is ‘local’?
In the context of City Fruit’s harvest, all fruit is harvested from residential and public orchard fruit trees within the Greater Seattle Area. When distributing fruit, we aim to donate fruit to food banks and meal programs located within 5-miles of where the fruit was harvested. City Fruit partners with local businesses like cideries and bakeries as fruit diversion partners — these businesses are all located within the Greater Seattle Area.
What is ‘food justice’?
The food justice movement recognizes that nutritious, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food should be accessible for all communities. It encourages us to envision land ownership, food production, and food distribution processes that are more socially just and environmentally sustainable.
What is ‘food sovereignty’?
The term ‘food sovereignty’ was originally coined in 1996 by members of the Via Campesina. It is a movement born from farmers, landless and migrant farm workers, fishers, and Indigenous peoples. It asserts that the people that produce, distribute, and consume food should exercise control over the planning, decision-making, and execution of agricultural practices, rather than large corporations and markets. Like the food justice movement, food sovereignty believes that healthy, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food should be accessible for all communities, and that communities should have a hand in how local food systems are run. To learn more about the food sovereignty movement, please visit the webpage for the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance.
What is ‘food apartheid’?
Originally coined by food activist and urban farmer, Karen Washington, ‘food apartheid’ is an alternative to the term ‘food desert.’ The term food desert has long been used to describe neighborhoods (anywhere along the urban-rural spectrum) where people do not have access to fresh, affordable, healthy foods. However, Karen Washington pushes for use of the term food apartheid in order to highlight how income, race, and geography are factors that influence a person’s ability to access these foods. Additionally, for some, the term ‘desert’ can bring to mind barren, empty landscapes — the term food apartheid pushes back against that idea, highlighting the ‘people power’ that exists within communities fighting for food justice. For more information, listen to this 2021 Lehman College interview with Karen Washington.
What is ‘permaculture’? What is ‘ancestral farming’?
Originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, ‘permaculture’ refers to a style and philosophy of agriculture that strives to work with, rather than against, nature. It aims to connect people, land, resources, and the environment together so that growing and food sharing practices are sustainable. However, it is important to note that the term ‘permaculture’ was developed in 1978. The knowledges and philosophies that define permaculture have Indigenous foundations and often continue to be utilized without proper recognition of this origin. We encourage people to use the Indigenous names for different growing practices whenever known. Another suggestion is to use the terms ‘ancestral farming’ or ‘regenerative agriculture’ instead of permaculture. To learn more about the Black and Indigenous agricultural practices that inspire many of our gardening strategies today, listen to this keynote address by Soul Fire Farms’ Leah Penniman.
Additional learning resources
Podcasts and audio recordings
‘This Is Love’ Podcast – Episode 40: Grandfather of the Forest. This episode shares the efforts of many scientists and community-members across the continent as they use grafting to explore possibilities for conserving American Chestnut trees impacted by an invasive fungus.
‘The Growing Old’ Podcast – Episode 3: Prairie Garden. This episode shares about indigenous growing practices and the individual and community identity that is fostered through the planting, growing, harvesting, and sharing of culturally relevant foods.
2021 Lehman College interview with Karen Washington. In this interview, Karen Washington shares about her experience as a Black food activist and farmer, working with communities in the Bronx to convert abandoned lots into community gardens. She also speaks about why she uses the term ‘food apartheid’ instead of ‘food desert’ to highlight systemic food insecurity.
‘The (R)evolution of Indigenous Food Systems in North America’ with Chef Sean Sherman. Chef Sean Sherman is author of The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, winner of the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook: ‘Decolonizing the Indigenous Diet‘.
Keynote address by Soul Fire Farms’ Leah Penniman, author of ‘Farming While Black‘. In this keynote, she shares about the work of Soul Fire Farms in educating and uplifting the ancestral farming practices of Black and Indigenous communities, and speaks of how their contributions have heavily defined the ways we practice gardening and farming today.
General reading articles
The Farmer Trying to Save Italy’s Ancient Olive Trees. This article in Atlas Obscura tells of an on-going effort by Giovanni Melcarne, an agronomist and owner of an extra virgin olive oil farm in Gagliano del Capo, to use grafting as a way to save Italy’s historic and much beloved olive trees.
4 Not-So-Easy Ways to Dismantle Racism in the Food System. This article in YES! magazine was written by Soul Fire Farm’s Leah Penniman. It provides an overview of racism in the U.S. food system (with statistics and figures), in addition to ways for citizens and food justice advocates to support food policy and BIPOC farmers. Informative and solutions-oriented, this article would be a great first read for someone wanting to learn more about our food system.
Academic articles and reports
Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-being through Urban Landscapes. This 300 page report, complete with vibrant photos, is a compilation of theory articles, thought pieces, case studies, and interviews all related to exploring the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of designing urban greenspaces and gardens.
‘Food Security, Food Justice, or Food Sovereignty?’, written by Eric Holt-Giménez. This article appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of the Food First Backgrounder: Institute for Food and Development Policy Journal. The article explains and defines the terms ‘food security’, ‘food justice’, and ‘food sovereignty’, and describes the ways in which the food justice and food sovereignty movements differ in their model and approach to the food crisis.