Just Transitions in a Public School Food System: The Case of Buffalo, New York
Keywords:Community Food Systems, School Food, Just Transition, Food Equity, Ecological Sustainability, Social Justice
This article examines the public school food system in Buffalo, New York, for a just transition (Movement Generation, n. d.). School food programs built on just transition characteristics democratize engagement, decentralize decision-making, diversify the economy, decrease consumption, and redistribute resources and power. The Buffalo public school district’s food system is an important subsection of the city’s food system that reaches the most vulnerable populations. School food systems contain teachable spaces within schools to introduce students to healthy eating, fresh food, and the (in)equitable economies of the larger community food system. We argue that school food is an ideal entry point for introducing a just transition to the local food system, enhancing food equity built from healthier social, economic, ecological, and political systems. Related to this JAFSCD issue’s call on Local Government in Food Systems Work, we aim to bring attention to the role and responsibility of public education systems in managing and enhancing community food systems through public policy. This qualitative case study examines five public school food programs in Buffalo, New York, for characteristics of a just transition using content analysis of policy and program documents. How does one public school food system engage in and build toward a just transition? Key findings include that all five programs analyzed reflected at least one characteristic of a just transition; programs lacked an emphasis on ecological justice; and younger generations must be included in the just transition implementation process. Ultimately, we argue that the school food system is ideally poised to initiate the implementation of a just transition.
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