Jill Wrigley, a BOP Advisory Board member, teaches a wonderful UMBC course on “Food.” It explores the history of food, food production, food distribution, urban agriculture, the changing food system – all within a framework of what we could call: the ethics of eating.
One of her earliest readings speaks particularly to the mission of the BOP. Called Right to Food, the article teaches the following:
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Committee on ESCR) in its General Comment 12 defines the right to food as follows:
“The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”
And it continues to explain how this should play out:
The right to food is not a right to a minimum ration of calories, proteins and other specific nutrients, or a right to be fed. It is about being guaranteed the right to feed oneself, which requires not only that food is available – that the ratio of production to the population is sufficient – but also that it is accessible – i.e., that each household either has the means to produce or buy its own food.
The Baltimore Orchard Project is designed to contribute to this right, to the realization of everyone’s desire and dignity to provide for themselves and their loved ones. The ability to grow or procure one’s own food is a spiritual gift. It establishes a sense of confidence and softens the experience of poverty.
Providing Baltimoreans with access to free food is something we can do. Baltimore is rich in land. A by-product of our loss of a third of our population over the past decades – we have an abundance of usable urban land. Land in acres and land in patches; land privately held and land in the public trust.
Fruit trees can fill much of that land, absorbing and sequestering toxins that might be in the soil, re-establishing a healthy soil environment, slowing down and absorbing rainfall so less dirty stormwater runs into the Bay, creating welcome shade and neighborhood play spaces and feeding neighbors with healthy fruit.
We can plant and manage, harvest and glean fruit trees in the city. The fruit can be consumed by neighbors, given away to those in need or sold at affordable rates in local neighborhood stores. The fruit can be eaten whole in the harvest season, or dried, processed or preserved to be eaten throughout the year.
Public access fruit trees and community-run orchards will not alone create unshakeable food security, and they will not alone form a more just food system. But they are pieces that can help solve this puzzle of how to respond to everyone’s right to food and build a more connected, resilient community of caring in the process.