Hospital Bills Ain't Gangsta: Four Reasons We Need Students to Start a ‘Food Fight'
If we care about our kids, ourselves, and our planet, it's time to expose the truth about food through hip hop and education.
As a green jobs and food justice organizer, a hip-hop performer and climate educator in high schools—and a witness to my grandmother passing away from diabetes when I was just an young boy—I know food and nutrition are a nexus point connecting climate change, food security, obesity, hunger, and poverty. Food can lead to economic development, particularly in communities of color, and healing in a world increasingly inundated with chemicals, nutritionally deficient food products, and environmental degradation.
That's why last January my hip hop collective, Earth Amplified, and I launched S.O.S—System out of our System—Juice. SoS Juice is a solar-powered for-profit/non-profit hybrid that sells juice, smoothies, and compost in order to improve health, promote sustainable agriculture, and create green jobs for low-income youth and formerly incarcerated individuals
We feel the greatest hope for fundamental change starts with the foundation for the future—our youth—so we decided to combine music and film with a school curriculum in order to help teachers engage students in a unique way on the most pressing issues we face. We linked with Stic Man from Dead Prez and New Message Media in order to produce the song (and video) "Food Fight."
It tells the story of a boy who must escape a world where processed food is killing his neighborhood. It has received thousands of positive responses from youth, mothers, farmers, educators, activists, and other artists. Here are four reasons why it's critical that every student see the "Food Fight" video and hear song's the lyrics:
1. Health: As you might have noticed, obesity and diabetes rates among our youth are high and it's not all their fault. Corporations actually engineer addiction and market it to young people, especially if they are black or brown. They need to know hospital bills ain't gangsta.
2. Hip-Hop saves lives: I grew up listening to KRS-One, Dead Prez, and other conscious hip-hop emcees who gave me the permission to make Food Fight based on their previous bold contributions to the culture. When I look at the conditions in our communities and the state of the world, it's really no surprise why there is so much coke, ecstasy, codeine and Ciroc in rap these days. "Food Fight" can act as a mantra of truth to soak through the numbness found on the way back home from school, past fast food chains and liquor stores. The lyrics are dope.
3. Peep Game: To help teachers engage students, there is a free curriculum offered with the video. If students happen to miss reading the newspaper this month, they will at least know that the climate is affecting crop yields, too many animal products can lead to health issues, and every food item in the store with a cute cartoon animal on it may not always be your best friend. (Besides, you see the amount of views on the vid in just a few weeks? You wanna be with the folks in the know.)
4. Solutions: The video actually points youth toward nutrition education, nutrient dense whole foods, growing food, and green entrepreneurship—all essential solutions to the health problems facing our nation. And SoS Juice is an opportunity to heal low-income youth and the formerly incarcerated, employ them, and set them up with real skills in agriculture and entrepreneurship.
This year with the support of our first Indiegogo Fundraiser, SoS Juice will be busy using hip hop and our curriculum to educate Oakland's youth. The flaws of our global economy are best exposed by looking at our food system—soil-depleting and oil-depleting factory farming, economic policies that contribute to starvation abroad, and disease and obesity at home, all packaged with a marketing campaign to enforce the "buy first, ask never" social contract—just buy what they say to buy, and eat/shut up.
But, what about the students in your community? If we care about our kids, ourselves, and our planet, it's time to expose the truth on a broader scale, and help a new generation of Food Fighters step up to make the changes we need.
Click here to add supporting SoS Juice's Indiegogo to your GOOD "to-do" list.
This month, we're challenging the GOOD community to host a dinner party and cook a meal that contains fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Throughout March, we'll share ideas and resources for being more conscious about our food and food systems. Join the conversation at good.is/food and on Twitter at #chewonit.