The Practice of Food Justice: How Food Hubs Negotiate Race and Place in the Eastern United States

Karen E. Rignall, Keiko Tanaka, Margarita Velandia, Carlos Trejo-Pech, Alessandra Del Brocco, Nathaniel Messer, Teya Cuellar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite aspirations toward more equitable and sustainable food systems, alternative food movements have been critiqued for reproducing the inequalities of the agrifood system they contest. This article examines the challenges a group of justice-oriented food hubs face in integrating racial justice into their work. We ask whether the financial pressures of enacting alternative approaches to food hub work within market logics can squeeze out racial justice goals. We find that dominant framings of alternative food movements diminish Black activism. We argue that justice-oriented food hubs can get caught in a “justice trap” similar to the “local trap”—the tendency to assume that the local scale is inherently desirable and leads to a socially just food system. The notion of a justice trap signals the assumption that what constitutes justice in the food system is self-evident and that different forms of justice are automatically subsumed within the general concept of “food justice.” Our analysis indicates that the justice trap arises from an inability to articulate the racial justice implications of the everyday realities of running organizations within the market logics that dominate even alternative food movements.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture, Agriculture, Food and Environment
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by grants from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) program, including add‐on grants from the SSARE James Harrison Hill, Sr., Young Scholar Enhancement Grant Program for 2019 and 2021 (LS 18‐300) as well as funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Multistate Research Project NC1198. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the USDA or the SSARE. 1

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Anthropological Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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