is a documentary film in production about
FOOD JUSTICE IN AMERICA
due out in 2020
“Food means everything if you don’t have it. And nothing if you do.”
FOOD JUSTICE NOW!
Food justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals. Food justice exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Food INJUSTICE happens where there is an abundance of cheap, processed food and an absence of healthy, fresh, affordable food – the choice to live a healthy life is taken away from certain members of society.
Activist and urban farmer Germaine Jenkins is taking on the power structure in Charleston, SC, to establish a neighborhood grocery store and urban farm that would counter the the tide of toxic food that has been ravaging the community for decades. Will this gleaming oasis in a food desert survive and advance civil rights’ latest frontier, or prove to have been just another mirage in the longstanding battle against food apartheid?
Meet GERMAINE JENKINS
CHEF, GROCER, FARMER, MOTHER, ACTIVIST, EDUCATOR AND EVERYDAY VISIONARY – DETERMINED TO RESTORE HEATH AND DIGNITY TO THE PEOPLE OF HER COMMUNITY.
Rooted is the story of black urban farmer Germaine Jenkins’ quest to gain ownership of a .8 acre parcel of land in Charleston, South Carolina, the hub of this country’s former slave trade. In May of 2019, she will finally learn if her tireless efforts over the past five years to radically transform the fate of North Charleston residents with ancestral ties to enslaved Africans will be rewarded, or decisively turned back by a system she has had to learn to navigate.
Our camera tracks Germaine’s struggle against massive obstacles: systemic, political, legal, and racial. She is currently petitioning Charleston’s local government to either extend her farm’s lease or give her ownership of the plot. It’s a legal predicament that threatens to undo the entirety of her incredible work to-date and could effectively kill Fresh Future Farm.
The reality is that Germaine, like her ancestors, works a land she does not own. ROOTED’s deeper revelation is that when we talk about who controls the food chain and access to fresh produce in America, what we’re really talking about is this: whose health is prioritized, which bodies are revered — and which bodies are devalued.
We follow this activist of singular magnetism as she begins to garner attention on the national stage. Germaine’s budding celebrity is of course exactly the visibility urban food justice needs. But at what cost? Increasingly — as Germaine’s work is celebrated—she discovers she must walk a tightrope of salesmanship and caution in order to push her vision forward. What is she willing to concede? Must she maneuver politically to win gains for the movement? Is a black woman leader ever really allowed to speak truth to power?
Behind Jenkins’ struggle to own this land and help the people of her community is a larger history of focused attempts at food justice that this film will use to contextualize and emphasize the stakes of her mission. Rooted sill spend time revisiting the history of the American black farmer, from the slave trade to discriminatory race-based land policies, to Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Cooperative, to the Black Panthers’ revolutionary free breakfast programs to the current food justice movement.
A STORY OF STRUGGLES AND SOLUTIONS ACROSS THE US
ROOTED will be there on the ground, beyond Charleston – in Chicago, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Oakland – to document the national upsurge in homegrown food justice activism and urban farming.
On her journey, Germaine strikes up fast friendships with modern activist LEAH PENNIMAN, author of Farming while Black, who educates Germaine – and our audience – on the history of dispossession and discrimination that Germaine seeks to uproot with her farming. Germaine mentors HAWK NEWSOME, president of Black Lives Matter NYC, as he cultivates his new Rejuvenate a Nation Project – a national movement to bring fresh food and wellness to underserved black communities in the Bronx and beyond. Both friendships add the insight and ballast needed during the final stretch of Germaine’s journey to acquire her own land, dignity and liberation.
“We’re the rich soil. We are building the roots where people can come to be restored so they can take care of themselves and their families.”
~ Germaine Jenkins
Among others we venture north to Detroit to meet WILL ALLEN, founder of Growing Power, and Germaine’s hero— the son of South Carolina sharecroppers, a former professional basketball player, and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient. Founded in 1995, Growing Power was the first-ever large scale urban farming non-profit to catapult to success—in 2009, it was selling food reaching 10,000 people.
And in Chicago we find Will’s daughter, ERIKA ALLEN, who sees food security and community development as the surest path to the eradication of racism and oppression. In 2017, she successfully rebranded the Chicago chapter of Growing Power as “Urban Growers Collective,” with a major twist: a focus on education, and innovative job training initiatives for teens and incarcerated adults.
THE SCOPE OF THE SCARCITY
A NATIONWIDE CRISIS
Because fresh food scarcity affects the poor and people of color at such disproportionate rates, the poor health outcomes that result are felt with crippling force in our “food desert” neighborhoods. A look at the hard data reveals that lack of access to fresh produce in our most vulnerable communities is not just an unfortunate urban reality — it’s a killer.
—Currently, there are 18,485 “food deserts” in the U.S.
—Twice as many African-American children live in food-insecure households than white children.
—A 10-year CDC study reported in 2010 that African-Americans were 30% more likely to die from heart disease than Caucasians, twice as likely to die of stroke, and 60% more likely to suffer from high blood pressure
—African-Americans are 80% more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes.
“In the pie chart of your activism, there has to be a place for food justice”
~ Germaine Jenkins
Germaine Jenkins is planting the seeds of food justice.
Are you ready to join the revolution?
“If we want to make change we have to collectively reject inequity”
~ Germaine Jenkins
THE FILMMAKER: Bridget Besaw is the founder of Seedlight Pictures, a company dedicated to making films that inspire curiosity and reverence for the natural world. Seedlight specializes in films that challenge conventional food systems and reconnect us to health and wellness through a better relationship to the food we eat and the planet that sustains us all.