A commitment to tackling anti-fatness at FoodShare
Asam Ahmad and Andrea Thompson
Co-Chairs, FoodShare Body Liberation and Fat Acceptance Taskforce
January is over. As fat people, we’re relieved. The weeks leading up to and away from the new year hold a special place of ‘ick’ in the hearts of big-bodied folks as we’re bombarded with everything anti-fat, from ads for gym memberships to juice cleanses.
The world isn’t an easy place to be fat, or to live in any body that doesn’t align with the status quo set by and for those who benefit from systems of oppression like white supremacy, patriarchy and homophobia. It’s especially difficult if you find yourself in a body that lives at the intersections of fatness and other marginalizations. And unfortunately, the community food sector has often contributed to weight stigma and fatphobia — FoodShare included.
But we are resolved to do better. Not just because it’s a new year and that’s what we’re told to do right now, but because we’ve made an ongoing commitment to tackle fatphobia in our organisation and in our work, and to share what we think will be of service to others. That’s included revamping our learning content, updating our brand guidelines and holding community conversations like Dismantling Fat Shaming and Weight Stigma and the follow up Dismantling Fat Shaming and Weight Stigma in Health and Wellness Spaces where we had the honour of hosting a venerable list of guests including Dr. Jill Andrew, Anshuman Iddamsetty, Ashley Gillon, Natalie Borch, Marquisele (Mikey) Mercedes, May Friedman, Issa Kixen and Dr. Sabrina Strings (whose book on the direct link between fatphobia and anti-Black racism is on our must-read list).
An important part of our recent work has been to identify the ways our programming needs to align with the values laid out in our statement on Body Liberation and Fat Acceptance, which reads in part:
“…we believe that all bodies are worthy and have the right to exist as they are. There is no wrong way to have a body. As a food justice organization that believes in body liberation and fat acceptance, we do not support fatphobia in any of its forms, including where it intersects with systems of oppression such as white supremacy, settler colonialism, colourism, ableism, ageism, misogyny, queerphobia, classism, etc. Because we know that access to food is shaped by these systems, as well as people’s current material conditions and their lived experiences, we respect people’s choices on the foods they eat. We are challenging the idea that foods are “good” or “bad,” or that people are good or bad for eating certain foods.” Read the full statement here
And yet, one of our social enterprise’s flagship products was called the Good Food Box.
Needless to say we didn’t feel right about it. Changing the name of this legacy offering hasn’t happened overnight. It required consultation with a range of important stakeholders including our staff, our community partners and our supporters. The results came back loud and clear: the “Good” Food Box had to become a thing of the past.
Because we’re not here to tell folks what they should eat. We’re here to fight for fairer food access for everyone. Food is a right and we all deserve the ability to secure for ourselves and our families and our communities the food we need and want to eat.
So from here on out if you visit our online shop you won’t hear anymore about the Good Food Box. But you will find a wide offering of large and small produce boxes plus bread, coffee, pantry items, themed gift boxes, artwork and tote bags.
Speaking of which, we still have a few “All Bodies Have a Right to Exist as They Are” totes with artwork from Toronto artist Taylor Annisette available with all proceeds going toward Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin (They Feed the People)’s work providing food to Indigenous elders and community.
Towards body liberation
We will continue to use the funds we generate from other items available through our social enterprise to fund a range of FoodShare advocacy and programming. It’s a vital income stream that helps us pivot our programming quickly to align with the communities we work alongside.
At FoodShare, we aim to stay collectively curious about the ways we can use discussions about food not as ends in themselves but as an access point to deeper understandings of systemic oppressions, fatphobia being only one, that ultimately decide who has access to food and other basic human rights including housing and healthcare.
We have seen the way fatphobia, propped up by its out-of-date concepts like Body Mass Index (BMI), does real harm, in particular to communities forced into systems that exclude them from access to food and who are therefore much more likely to be food insecure.
If these ideas are new to you, or something you’d like to dig into further, Asam is offering a workshop called Unlearning Weight Stigma in our Everyday Lives at a date in April that’s TBD. You can sign up for the wait list and to receive other updates on our body liberation work here.
And you also might be interested in episode 5 of the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health’s Mind the Disruption podcast: Disrupting Food Insecurity and Fatphobia, where our former executive director Paul Taylor describes FoodShare’s impetus for taking the stance we have on body liberation and fat acceptance and our policy for partnerships and funders that explicitly states that we will not participate in projects or coalitions that track or reference body size.
While many have leaned in and become a part of this conversation with us, he also knows others have thought we’re “out to lunch”. (We don’t know if you intended that pun Paul, but we’re here for it.)
We’re eager for folks to consider their own fatphobia and to join us in learning to do better. When we first started this work we, grasping for language to frame what we were trying to achieve, called it Body Positivity. “But it’s not about being positive about our bodies,” Paul explains, “it’s about being liberated.” Liberated from the oppressive ways that society treats fat people.
So we’ll keep doing our part to unlearn and divest from fatphobia. We won’t always get it right and we invite our community to call us in when we fall short. There’s still FoodShare programming that uses the term Good Food — we’re actively involved in consultation to move away from that language across the board.
But for now, in the interest of sharing the fresh start we’re hoping this year brings for all of us, we’re saying goodbye to the Good Food Box.
To our existing shoppers and subscribers remember to update your browsers and favourites tabs. From now on you’ll find us at shop.foodshare.net