Deserts, swamps, or apartheid: the language of food organizing

Brilliant interview with Karen Washington as she breaks down the institutions and words that deflate the potential of our food work. I agree whole-heartedly with her assessment that the term food desert does not describe the actual problem that communities face. I remember when a local academic dismissed it some years back but only substituted the term food swamp because as he said, it is not a lack of food that is the issue, but a swamp of bad food choices. I thought then well maybe that’s slightly better but it still doesn’t define the issue.

In contrast, the term food apartheid is properly defiant and active. Apartheid is the system of segregation, most often based on race, and as such does describe the structural issues with food, in consumption and production, in rural, urban, and suburban places. The solution includes food sovereignty (and health to be understood as the most important type of wealth), but of course in the US, the structure of sovereignty and self-care has been entirely warped by our corporate food structure and our statist political structure.

It is hard for many, but it is vital that all people see the food apartheid that has always been present in the US for people of color and now stretches to every  community. How to see? Look down: note the rolls of fat and the chronic illnesses inside; look around: see the lack of actual food growing in your public spaces and neighbors’ yards; look to City Hall and your state capital: see the policies that discourage or criminalize the production and sale of good food by neighbors. Once made, these observations can lead to action and unity and should become the core of our messages as farmers market leaders.

From the Karen Washington Guardian interview.

The conversation around actual food value is a conversation that we don’t have in low-income neighborhoods, regardless if they’re black or white, rural or urban. But things are changing. People are talking more than ever about food. It’s such a major shift, so you’re seeing major corporations offering different options, like fast-food chains offering salads. The consumer is starting to understand the relationship between food and health. It’s also happening in low-income communities. The rise in school gardens impacts children and they shift their parents’ perspectives. In my neighborhood, every year, we have a block party and they don’t serve soda anymore. The kids are asking for water! Education is working.

I think that food activists who see the work they do as truly measurable in terms of justice or of successful resistance to the dominant system are most likely to achieve actual change and will find themselves less frustrated by small disappointments and failures in their daily work. I also think that those food activists who see their work as organizing -and who see organizing as leadership development at the grassroots level – are also more likely to find allies and to be good allies, which to me is the primary goal of creating public entities like farmers markets or non-profit organizations.

I’ll leave the last words for agricultural leader LaDonna Redmond who eloquently said in the foreword to Professor Monica White’s Freedom Farmers:Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement:

While the white movement describes my community through a deficit model, Monica’s work describes agriculture as a site of resistance…The book is a conduit of those stories and memories that restore our dignity. I hope it will forever remind us that we are people of this land.

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Charlottesville vendor Good Phyte Foods talks value-added product development

My great pal Stacy Miller is always in constant learning mode, especially interested in learning through the experience and ingenuity of farmers and other entrepreneurs in her local community. This podcast is fascinating for the detail that she offers about product development, marketing concerns, trends in snack foods, and the props to farmers markets and FMC of course (and an honestly humbling plug for the Dar Bar but let’s leave that aside for now although I remain grateful that my name rhymes with bar.)

This is a great example of how a value-added business can offer authenticity to market messaging,  how these innovative vendors can illustrate the market farmers story through storytelling and through lovely presentation of their ingredients offering healthy, delicious snacking. So let’s remember what those vendors offer our markets and honor them too.

Day carts bring new faces to Reading Terminal Market

“We found ourselves in this incredibly competitive environment where you want to test new concepts and give customers something new,” Gupta said. “We needed a way to bring in some of these hyper-local entrepreneurs, these small-batch products that you can find at farmers’ markets. And the way to do that was to lower the barriers to entry.”

The wheeled carts, left over from the market’s days as a train station, already were being leased to a few businesses that needed no refrigeration — like Lansdale’s Boardroom Spirits and newcomer Birdie’s Biscuits — for use as pop-up stands in the center of the building. The feedback from customers and owners was good, Gupta said, so last fall he and members of his team started working with the Health Department on turning the former Wan’s Seafood into a flexible space for multiple kiosks. The space has no built-in cooking station, but other than sinks, refrigeration, and the proper permits and licenses, it turned out little was needed for businesses to start selling ready-made food.

http://www.philly.com/philly/food/reading-terminal-market-day-carts-20180124.html

Beating the Monopolies: Barry Lynn Explains How We Will Win 

 

The first thing we have to say is, “I’m not a consumer. I am a citizen. I produce things. I produce labor. I produce goods. I produce ideas. I will have open and free markets into which to sell my goods, my ideas, my labor. There will be competition for my goods, my ideas, for my labor, and there will be no intermediary standing between me and my neighbors telling us how to do business with one another, just the way Sam Adams and John Hancock said back in 1773.” That’s the first thing we have to do.

The second thing is, for anyone who’s in a position of authority, a position of power, a position of leadership, this could be within your community, within your town, within your church, is just go out there and talk about this. You don’t have to figure out what the fixes are. There’s going to be a thousand fixes. There’s going to be 10,000 fixes. That’s the beauty of antitrust law, of anti-monopoly law, is we have an immense number of tools that we can bring to bear. What we have to do is see the problem, and help our fellows see the problem. We have to make it safe for other people on the Hill, on Capitol Hill, to talk about this.

 

podcast

Emerging City Champions to lead innovative food projects – Knight Foundation

I highlight the food choices, but really all 20 of them should be approached to have a partnership with their farmers markets. Here is the list so you can see what else is being proposed.

Macon, Georgia
Morgan Wright: A new community garden planted on an abandoned lot will serve community members and feature weekly farmers markets.

Miami
Danielle Bender: Public Hives will provide beehives in public places, with a protective fence surrounded by native wildflowers and fruiting trees, to ensure residents can remain a safe distance away. Programming will encourage discussions about pollinators.

Tallahassee, Florida
Jacqueline Porter: “Thrive Tallahassee” will be a series of neighborhood meals hosted in underused, historically significant spaces.

Source: <a href=”https://knightfoundation.org/articles/20-emerging-city-champions-chosen-to-lead-innovative-urban-projects”Knight Foundation

“…That everyone will believe they are worth that.”

 

“It is a ridiculous business model,” Jennifer admits. “But we have pride in doing this accurately. No corners cut.”

The women are doing something right. At their last farm dinner, guests were shamelessly smuggling the handmade butter off the table into their purses. This budding success fills the trio with hard-won satisfaction. At the Mister Canteen truck, Anna gives impromptu baking tutorials about spelt to curious doughnut buyers. Misty breaks down the myths about lard. Jennifer shares tips for pasture-raised eggs and chickens.

“We talk all the time about how we are broke and poor, but we are rich in ways most people aren’t,” Anna says. “We have six gallons of milk every day. Four dozen eggs every morning. And we have purpose.”

Source: Back to the Land