Activist fights for African-Americans’ food sovereignty

By Jordan Cope
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

eric jackson

Eric Jackson

Of the estimated 623,000 residents living in Baltimore City, 25 percent face food insecurity. Of those suffering from food insecurity, 86 percent are African American, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wanting a brighter future for the city that he grew up in, Eric Jackson created the Black Yield Institute of Baltimore, an organization that focuses on putting food sovereignty into the hands of African Americans.

Jackson is a community organizer and social entrepreneur in Baltimore. He received his masters degree from Morgan State and hopes to be able to help spread the word of food insecurity so that everyone has equal access.  

“Our poor communities lack the political attention and social capital to get out of these situations,” Jackson said.

Jackson spoke with students at Towson University on Tuesday to discuss the problems with food insecurity facing African Americans and to share his ideas of how to create food sovereignty.

The lecture was organized by Nancy Siegel, a professor of art history and culinary history at Towson University. 

One of the main issues that Jackson sees with food insecurity amongst African Americans in Baltimore City is that the ideas are coming from outside the community.

“What we see in the city and country is a vision of equity for food,” Jackson said. “In Baltimore, the vision is coming from white people. In a city that is more than half black, why is this the case?”   

black yieldIn his lecture, Jackson was highly critical of government aid and said that the ideas that are coming from the government do not change who the citizens are or how the citizens interact with each other.

Instead, he believes that residents of Baltimore City must come together and think of solutions for this problem.

“We need to lead the efforts,” Jackson said. “Participatory planning and knowing each other is going to be able to make this work.” 

Instead of thinking about how to create food justice, Jackson thinks that there are different steps to put food sovereignty into the hands of African Americans.

One of Jackson’s ideas was to create a coalition led by African Americans.

“Just because you have a few organizations doing things to help doesn’t make something a movement,” Jackson said. “You always see something like, ‘hashtag this,’ but that does not make something a movement.”

Jackson also said he believed that it was important for those facing food insecurity to establish roles for their allies.

“Sometimes we are our own worst enemies,” Jackson said. “Having a food drive to get a can of vegetables to a needy person is great, but it only hurts us in the long run because that dollar doesn’t go back into the community.”

Of those in attendance at Jackson’s lecture was Siegel. Siegel believed that it was important to have Jackson come speak to her food studies students for the different ideas that he brings regarding food insecurity.  She hopes to start a food studies course in the near future at Towson.

“About a year ago I wanted to start a food studies program at Towson and the response was very vibrant,” Siegel said. “I met Eric and I thought that this was someone that my students needed to know.”

However, the lecture contained more than just Siegel’s students.

Matt Teitelbaum, a political science major at Towson University, wanted to come to get more involved in the efforts in the community.

“It’s a great cause to learn about and get involved with,” he said.

Overall, Jackson wanted to spread word of his message and ideas in an effort to end food insecurity in Baltimore.

“My intent is to share, coming to you as a brother,” Jackson said. “I feel like my role is to be an instigator, to listen to comments, challenge them and share my thoughts.”

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