What if the little old ladies who run the neighborhood church food pantry rebelled? What if they said “we’re 70 years old, we’ve been feeding people for 20 years, and hell if we want to do it for another 20?” What if they demanded that the government reduce the incidence of poverty so that food pantries don’t need to exist in the first place? Read more
The past year or so has brought some dramatic changes to key organizations in the community food arena. Organizations like the Community Food Security Coalition, Food Alliance, Organic Farming Research Foundation, and Slow Food have gone through either challenging leadership transitions, substantially downsized, and/or closed down. The leadership vacuum left in part by these unfortunate occurrences is compounded by the breakneck growth of the field, as new food-oriented organizations emerge and existing groups discover how food systems work can help them meet their goals. Read more
On May 12, 2010, in the U.S. Capitol, Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Eduardo Castro Wright made a stunning announcement. His company would donate $2 billion in food and cash over a five-year period to “fight hunger in America.” Key Congress members and anti-hunger organization executives gushed on stage about Wal-Mart’s leadership in this arena.
Fast forward two and a half years. We’re half-way through the time period of this commitment. How has Wal-Mart done on their pledge? Read more
I really did not want to be a cliché from Portlandia. But, sometimes, marital harmony gets in the way of stereotype avoidance.
For the past two and a half years, we’ve been owners of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the Hogwarts hens. (We joked that if we ever got a rooster, we’d name him Voldemort). The three lovely ladies, a Rhode Island Red, a silver laced Wyandotte, and a barred Plymouth, have resided in a run in our postage stamp backyard, swilling organic feed and whatever leftovers we remembered to give them. In return, they dutifully laid two to three eggs per day even in our dreary winters, and provided wonderful fertilizer for our compost pile.
Earlier this summer, Harry (the Rhode Island Red) and Hermione (the beautiful but fussy Wyandotte) stopped laying. That left Ron soldiering on. Unfortunately, one egg per day was not enough to feed my growing boys’ scrambled egg habit: a half dozen for lunch, between the two, is not unheard of. “What’s the point of having chickens if we’re paying for eggs,’ I mumbled to myself while pondering whether organic eggs were worth the extra $2/dozen over the cage free vegetarian-fed ones. Read more
The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington last week brought to light some of the fundamental internal contradictions of the anti-hunger movement. Specifically, the movement’s financial reliance on corporations with poverty-causing labor practices, as well as their reluctance to advocate on the politically-charged root causes of hunger. Read more
Everyone hates fundraising. I am one of those rare souls who actually likes it, but I know how time-consuming, disheartening, and frustrating it can be. Having been the main fundraiser for the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) for 14 years, I am intimately familiar with the realities of non-profit fundraising. So, the recent news that Growing Power was accepting a million dollar donation from Wal-Mart was not so surprising. A million clams is, as they say in D.C., “real money.”
All organizations have to make decisions about from whom they are willing to take money and under what terms. Some groups will take money from any corporation that gives it to them, believing that they can do better things with the money than the company can. Other organizations are more selective, only taking money from those aligned with their mission. Yet Growing Power’s acceptance of this contribution and CEO Will Allen’s statement on his blog present some crucial dilemmas for the movement. Read more
Last week, Haven Bourque published an article here on Civil Eats about the contradictions she found at the recent Community Food Security Coalition conference in New Orleans. While she found the conference to be very informative and a great networking opportunity, she also noted that the presence of junk food at snack times and Sodexo’s sponsorship appeared to be contradictory to CFSC’s values.
As the Executive Director of CFSC, and the responsible party for some 20 conferences over the past 13 years, I was keenly interested in her comments. Read more
On Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he had asked the US Department of Agriculture to allow the city to exempt soda from the permitted list of items its 1.7 million food stamp recipients can purchase with their benefits. This ban would last for two years, enough time to assess its effects and determine whether the ban should be continued on a permanent basis. New York City food stamp recipients spend an estimated $75 million to $135 million of their $2.7 billion in food stamps annually on soda, according to AP. Read more
This week is National Farmers Market Week. Time for fresh corn, tomatoes and berries at your local farmers market, which now are as American as baseball and apple pie. In the past fifteen years, the number of markets has almost quadrupled to nearly 6,000. Americans annually spend $1.3 billion at farmers markets, according to Farmers Market Coalition estimates.
Business associations adore farmers markets because they revitalize depressed downtowns, bringing shoppers into otherwise ignored areas. Communities love them because they turn a parking lot or empty city street into a colorful and festive weekly commons where friends and neighbors can meet and linger. Farmers frequent them because they can capture 100 percent of the retail value of their products, helping revive a flagging small farm economy.
Yet, there is one group that has been excluded from the benefits of farmers markets: food stamp recipients. Read more
Among the adherents of the food security movement in the United States, many idolize Cuba’s experience in building a vibrant urban farming sector. This idealization is due to the lack of information available on the Cuban system, as caused by the travel embargo and media blackout there. Compounding this situation is the vast difference between the Cuban and American political and economic systems.
Cuba’s accomplishments are undeniably astounding, inspiring and a testament to the country’s flexibility and pragmatism: 350,000 new well paying jobs (out of a total workforce of 5 million) created in urban agriculture nationally; 4 million tons of fruits and vegetables produced annually in Havana, up ten-fold in a decade; and a city of 2.2 million people regionally self-sufficient in produce. These accomplishments have been supported by an extensive network of input suppliers, technical assistance providers, researchers, teachers and government agencies.
Yet, Cuban urban agriculture, no matter how inspiring, is largely irrelevant to Americans. Read more