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FreedomCon 2021 – Food Justice: Hunger, Child Poverty and Farming while Black

August 21 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


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“Food (In)Justice” is a broad topic with deep roots in United States history. This presentation will focus on three aspects of food justice: hunger (food insecurity), child poverty, and farming.  Through a lens of racial injustice and inequality, some of the key issues will be analyzed and an examination of possible responses will be considered.  Some references will use examples from the presenter’s experience in Schenectady and upstate New York, but much of the focus will be on policy issues underlying the root causes of food injustice.

Food, an essential element of life for every human being. Food justice, a right to healthy, life-giving food for every human being. And yet, food has been used as a mechanism of oppression, exclusion, and control. That this right to healthy, life-giving food was not being realized by people around the world, especially Black and Brown people, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

And yet, in 2019 we learn from research conducted by Feeding America, that, “Nationally, the rate of food insecurity for African-American households is more than double that of white households, while one in five Latinos are food insecure — compared with one in ten whites and one in eight Americans overall. “(Feeding America. “Hunger hits African American communities harder.” Feeding America, (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2019, from


Rev. Phillip N. Grigsby recently retired as Executive Director/Urban Agent of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry (SICM) after serving for 33 years.  SICM is a coalition of 50 congregations that “seek to relate the resources of the congregations to the human needs of the city.”  SICM currently runs the county’s largest supplemental food program, summer lunch for youth, community agriculture,  wellness initiatives, and provides leadership in community collaborations and partnerships.  He launched a capital campaign prior to retirement to develop a Resource Center, Teaching Kitchen, and improvements to the food pantry.

SICM is a faith-based expression of the social justice concerns of members, and now an interfaith organization.   SICM initiated a number of community programs  now independent of SICM:  Project SAFE and Safe House (runaway and homeless youth), the Community Land Trust of Schenectady (affordable housing), Bethesda House (helping the homeless), Nutrition Outreach and Education (Food Stamp access), and others.  SICM provided assistance to the Capital Region Theological Center (CRTC), supported through the Lilly Endowment.   SICM initiated community programs that led to other community initiatives:  JOGS etc, an employment program, the Damien Center for HIV/AIDS, Safe Parks and Edible Playgrounds funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Spiritually Sound and Physically Fit, Committee for Social Justice (Police issues) and others.

He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and grew up near Buffalo in Hamburg, NY.  He is a graduate of Oberlin College (BA in economics, high honors, Phi Beta Kappa) and Yale University Divinity School, with studies at the New School (NY) for Social Research.  While in New Haven he was Adjunct faculty at Yale University Divinity School In Practical Theology.  He received a Lilly Endowment grant for study of the ministry of Fr. Henri Nouwen, whom Phil knew while in New Haven.  This sabbatical led to participation in a book commemorating Fr. Nouwen’s life in a conference.

He and his wife Jan served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa.  Prior to coming to Schenectady, he directed ecumenical ministry programs in Norwalk and New Haven, CT and Charlotte, NC.  In Charlotte he was the regional staff person for Church World Service/CROP, developing the methodology that led the Charlotte CROP Walk into the nation’s largest.  He has served as pastor of two congregations, was Moderator of Emmanuel Friedens Church and President of the Hudson Mohawk Association.

He and Jan live in Schenectady. Jan retired as a Senior Lecturer at Union College in sociology; two grown children with one near and one San Francisco


The Zoom link will be emailed to those who have registered via UREC website registration.


August 21
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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Mary Liz Stewart


523 1/2 South Pearl Street
Albany, New York 12202
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