Picture of Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii

PAN hosts food democracy discussion – Join us!

Do you ever wish it were easier to find fresh, healthy food for your family? Are you outraged by a food system that fills the pockets of giant corporations and denies fairness to farmers and farmworkers alike? Do you yearn to be part of a powerful, growing movement that's spreading across the U.S. (and in fact the world), and that's transforming our relationship to food — and each other — in the most fundamental ways imaginable?

If so, join us for a lively conversation about food justice, food sovereignty and food democracy — in this and future blog posts, or live and in person in San Francisco next Monday.

On May 9, PAN will host Growing Food Democracy: Connecting Global Lessons to Local Action, a stimulating evening with food justice activist Navina Khanna of Oakland’s Live Real, and two well-known food movement authors: Robert Gottlieb and Raj Patel. I’ll be moderating the conversation, in which we’ll explore the successes, tensions and synergies between the food justice, food democracy and global food sovereignty movements. If you’re in the neighborhood, come join us! And if you’re not, post your questions and comments here and I’ll share them with our speakers.

Justice, sovereignty & democracy

These three movements are closely related, yet each brings a unique analysis borne of its history and aspirations.

  • A food justice lens reveals how the politics of power and privilege — and race and class dynamics in particular — maintain a highly inequitable distribution of benefits and harms within our food system. These injustices privilege the few (often giant corporations) at the expense of ordinary people and their environments. The food justice movement in the U.S. has brought us incredibly diverse and creative ways in which communities are coming together to challenge and overturn the injustices embedded in our food system.  
  • Meanwhile, the global food sovereignty movement — with roots in the peasant and rural communities of the global South — emphasizes the rights of peoples to make decisions to grow and share food in culturally appropriate and sustainable ways, and to establish the food and agricultural policies necessary to protect those rights and their livelihoods. The global food sovereignty movement also identifies ending violence against women and embracing gender equity as core organizing strategies.
  • Into this mix of food movements comes the concept of food democracy, a term coined in the 1990s by Prof. Timothy Lang. Like food justice and food sovereignty, food democracy embraces change, but it also emphasizes the right and responsibility of people to engage in making decisions about our food system, to set policies, and reclaim control over that most basic centerpiece of our lives: food. As such, it speaks a language that resonates especially well in the U.S. and may enable us to bridge some of the disabling divides in this country.

Can food democracy fire up and unite urban and rural youth, farmers, workers and consumers, Midwesterners and coastal foodies, and both left- and right-leaning traditions of populism in reclaiming our food system? What do you think?

Join us in San Francisco

Our event is free and open to the public and will be held at the Women’s Building of San Francisco at 3543 18th Street, just 3 blocks from the 16th Street BART stop. Light food and refreshments will follow. The event is co-sponsored by Live Real, California Food & Justice CoalitionFood First, People’s Grocery and the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative.

For those who can't make it, please post your comments here. I'll post a follow-up blog next week and let you know how the evening went.

Our speakers:

Navina Khanna is co-founder and Field Director of Live Real, a “national initiative dedicated to amplifying the power of young people shaping a radically different food system through policy and practice.” An educator, community organizer and policy advocate, Navina has spent over ten years working to transform local, regional and national agri-food systems and organize for food justice.   

Robert Gottlieb is Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute and Professor of Urban & Environmental Policy at Occidental College. A food and environmental justice activist and historian of social movements, he has authored a dozen books. The newest, co-authored with Anupama Joshi, is Food Justice.

Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, is a visiting scholar in the Center for African Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, a fellow at Food First, an honorary research fellow at the School of Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and an IATP Food & Society fellow.    

Photo credit: Just Food

Picture of Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii

Marcia Ishii is director of PAN’s Grassroots Science Program and a Senior Scientist with a background in insect ecology and pest management. Her campaign work focuses on supporting and strengthening agroecology movements and policies in the U.S. and globally, in addition to challenging corporate control of our food and seed systems. Follow @MarciaIshii

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