Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 455–466 | Cite as

Growing food justice by planting an anti-oppression foundation: opportunities and obstacles for a budding social movement

  • Joshua SbiccaEmail author


The food justice movement is a budding social movement premised on ideologies that critique the structural oppression responsible for many injustices throughout the agrifood system. Tensions often arise however when a radical ideology in various versions from multiple previous movements is woven into mobilization efforts by organizations seeking to build the activist base needed to transform the agrifood system. I provide a detailed case study of the People’s Grocery, a food justice organization in West Oakland, California, to show how anti-oppression ideology provides the foundation upon which food justice activists mobilize. People’s Grocery builds off of previous social justice movements within West Oakland, reflected in activist meaning making around ideas of social justice and autonomy. However, the ongoing mobilization process also faces complications stemming from diverse individual interpretations of food justice—that may not be reflected in the stated goals of food justice organizations—as well as structural constraints. Consequently, building a social movement premised on food justice opens up social spaces for new activism, but may not be a panacea for solving food-related racial and economic inequality. The findings have implications for newly forming food justice organizations, future research on the food justice movement, as well as for theories on social movement mobilization.


Food justice People’s Grocery West Oakland, CA Ideology Framing Environmental sociology 



Alternative food movement


Black Panther Party


Environmental justice


Food justice


Food justice movement


Food justice organization


People’s Grocery



I owe a debt of gratitude to all the volunteers, interns, staff, and West Oakland residents I learned from while working as an ally with People’s Grocery. Thank you for sharing your lives and thoughts with me. Many thanks also to Brian Mayer, Stephen Perz, and Kendal Broad for helpful feedback on various versions of this manuscript. Upon submission, I received many constructive and supportive comments and suggestions from three anonymous reviewers and from the editor, Harvey James.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Criminology and LawUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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