‘Food justice’ and ‘food sovereignty’ have become key words in food movement scholarship and activism. In the case of ‘food justice’, it seems the word is often substituted for work associated with projects typical of the alternative or local food movement. We argue that it is important for scholars and practitioners to be clear on how food justice differs from other efforts to seek an equitable food system. In the interests of ensuring accountability to socially just research and action, as well as mounting a tenable response to the ‘feed the world’ paradigm that often sweeps aside concerns with justice as distractions from the ‘real’ issues, scholars and practitioners need to be more clear on what it means to do food justice. In exploring that question, we
identify four nodes around which food justice organizing appears to occur: trauma/inequity, exchange, land, and labor. This article sets the stage for a second one that follows, Notes on the practice of food justice in the U.S., where we discuss attempts to practice food justice.