Thanksgiving. More than any other, this holiday is about food — how it brings us together, the magic of the harvest and appreciation for the many hands that bring bounty to our table. And this year, I'm feeling especially hopeful about the future of food.
Yes, I'm optimistic by nature. But having worked to promote sustainability and food justice for a couple of decades now (gulp!), I can honestly say that there's new and exciting momentum building — and it may just get us where we need to go.
Strong voices, powerful stories
Just a few days ago, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the "Voices of the Food Chain" project here in the Bay Area. This powerful initiative, led by Anna Lappe's Real Food Media and the Food Chain Workers Alliance, holds up the stories of workers throughout the food system — from the fields of industrial agriculture to packing houses, restaurants and big box retail outlets. Workers from different regions, generations and ethnic backgrounds interview each other, sharing the challenges they face and how they're working to overcome them.
Ruth Faircloth, a former farmworker now with the Rural and Migrant Ministry, explained her commitment to working with migrant farmworker children in upstate New York:
"I felt the need that I would always make sure a child would never have the experience I had as a farmworker child. My passion for my work is to take away the loneliness and bring the joy. Being able to watch these kids smile, and watch them be a kid, that’s like my greatest gift."
The "Voices" project is getting off the ground just in time for both Thanksgiving and international food workers week — an annual effort to recognize and honor the hands that feed us all.
Building food democracy
I'm also thrilled that we're partnering with the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Union of Concerned Scientists and other partners in the HEAL Food Alliance. HEAL stands for Health, Environment, Agriculture and Labor — and the alliance brings together advocates from all of these arenas to develop model policies and campaigns for the food system transformation we so urgently need.
The first initiative out the gate is the "Plate of the Union" project, a creative effort to help activists across the country bring food issues into the presidential race. PAN will be actively supporting this exciting initiative. Stay tuned for more ways to engage.
And finally, I'm recently back from a week in Hawai'i learning and working with activists who are very much on the frontlines of our current chemical-intensive agricultural system. This is where the Big 6 biotech/pesticide corporations test and produce new genetically engineered (GE) seeds. The communities on the islands are standing up to protect themselves and their families from the intensive pesticide use that accompanies production of these GE seeds, which are often specifically engineered for high pesticide applications.
From county ordinances to marches on the capitol to young Native Hawai'an farmers rapping for change, activists from every island are fighting hard for local farming and healthy communities. I left the islands deeply inspired by — and thankful for — the determination, creativity and spirit these folks bring to their work every day.
So, yes, I'm feeling especially hopeful as we head into this Thanksgiving weekend. Pass the food justice, please.