Global Food Movement

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Brian Tokar:

"Visionary activists, farmers and organizers around the world, however, are reaching far beyond the fashions of “green consumerism” and introducing models of solidarity and mutual aid that resonate well with the messages of climate justice. For example, neighborhood activists in Hartford, Connecticut brought an assertive community organizing model into efforts to alleviate hunger, and developed a comprehensive urban food system. They brought community gardens and farmers markets into inner city neighborhoods and developed active working relationships between publicly funded nutrition programs and nearby farms (Winne, 2008). Organizations in many other US cities and towns have followed suit. ...

In his book, The Green Collar Economy, Van Jones recounts an interview with Brahm Ahmadi, executive director of the People’s Grocery in Oakland, California, which has also developed community gardens and a two acre farm. “Food is our medium for achieving broader outcomes in community development and public health and addressing disparities in opportunities and quality of life,” Ahmadi explains.

He continues:

We chose food as our tool because it’s intimate and universal, regardless of the differences in culture or personal preferences… From there we connect the dots to the structural and systemic issues of the food system: considering the global environmental footprint of food production, how far food travels, and equity issues related to farmworkers and the struggles of small farmers … connecting those to the struggles of low income consumers (Jones, 2008: 130-31).


In all such cases, solidarity is key. Ultimately, climate justice demands a far higher level of solidarity with people around the world than many in the global North are accustomed to exercising, either in their daily lives or their political choices. The increasingly catastrophic climate disruptions that today mainly impact people in the tropics and subtropics are slowly beginning to be felt throughout the world. More than ever, our ability to continue to thrive as humans depends on radically transforming our social and economic systems. The reality is too urgent, and the outlook far too bleak, to settle for anything less. Perhaps more than any previous time in human history, the disruption of the earth’s climate systems compels us to begin to realize our vision of a dramatically different kind of world." (http://www.foodmovementsunite.org/authors/brian_tokar.html)


Discussion

Frances Moore Lappe:

Industrial agriculture "not only pollutes, diminishes and disrupts nature; it misses ecology’s first lesson: relationships. Productivism isolates agriculture from its relational context—from its culture.

In 2008 a singular report helped crack the productivist frame. This report, “The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (known simply as IAASTD), explained that solutions to poverty, hunger and the climate crisis require agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping to balance the carbon cycle. Painstakingly developed over four years by 400 experts, the report has gained the support of more than fifty-nine governments, and even productivist strongholds like the World Bank.

IAASTD furthers an emerging understanding that agriculture can serve life only if it is regarded as a culture of healthy relationships, both in the field—among soil organisms, insects, animals, plants, water, sun—and in the human communities it supports: a vision lived by many indigenous people and captured in 1981 by Wendell Berry in The Gift of Good Land and twenty years later by Jules Pretty in Agri-Culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature.

Across cultures, the global food movement is furthering agri-culture by uniting diverse actors and fostering democratic relationships. A leader is La Via Campesina, founded in 1993 when small farmers and rural laborers gathered from four continents in Belgium. Its goal is “food sovereignty”—a term carefully chosen to situate “those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations,” says the declaration closing the group’s 2007 global gathering in Nyeleni, Mali. La Via Campesina connects 150 local and national organizations, and 200 million small farmers, in seventy countries. In 2009 it was included among civil society players on the UN Committee on Food Security.

And in the urban North, how is the food movement enhancing agri-culture?

For sure, more and more Americans are getting their hands in the dirt—motivated increasingly by a desire to cut “food miles” and greenhouse gases. Roughly a third of American households (41 million) garden, up 14 percent in 2009 alone. As neighbors join neighbors, community gardens are blooming. From only a handful in 1970, there are 18,000 community gardens today. In Britain community gardens are in such demand—with 100,000 Brits on waiting lists for a plot—that the mayor of London promised 2,012 new ones by 2012.

And in 2009 the Slow Food movement, with 100,000 members in 153 countries, created 300 “eat-ins”—shared meals in public space—to launch its US “Time for Lunch” campaign, with a goal of delicious healthy school meals for the 31 million kids eating them every day." (http://www.thenation.com/article/163403/food-movement-its-power-and-possibilities)


More Information

Books:

  1. Food Rebellions
  2. Food Movements Unite