Passover celebrations include focus on food deserts

In a blog post this morning for CNN’s American Morning, the Progressive Jewish Alliance‘s executive director Elissa Barrett uses the occasion of Passover and the traditional Seder meal (which happens tonight) to discuss the issue of urban food deserts. According to Barrett,

On Passover we trace our path from oppression to redemption, from suffering to opportunity. As we recall our wandering through the desert on the way to freedom, our minds turn to those who are suffering today, to those still wandering the desert. The Progressive Jewish Alliance seeks solutions to repair injustices in our cities here and now, calling attention to the reality that millions of Americans live – unnecessarily – in “food deserts.”

PJA and other Jewish organizations in Los Angeles are promoting Passover activities that incorporate discussions of food deserts (urban areas without easy access to fresh, healthy food). The organization has published a reading for the beginning of the Seder meal, as well as a “Food Desert Seder Plate” brochure which ties traditional elements of this meal into the discussion. The group also sponsored a bus tour of food deserts in the LA area last week.

For the groups involved in this campaign, grocery stores are the real answer to food injustice: they note that while community gardens and farmers’ markets (two solutions often promoted in discussions of food deserts) can play a significant role on a weekly basis, supermarkets with regular hours are critical to addressing this issue.

This strikes me as an innovative approach to tying this sacred tradition (and its connection to the Jews wandering the desert after their liberation from Egypt, according to the Old Testament) to a contemporary issue of social and environmental justice. Agree? Let us know your thoughts.


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