When the call came from the British Embassy, Melissa Kratzer was surprised. Would the Kentucky-based Food Literacy Project want to host Camilla, wife of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the embassy wanted to know. As a small grassroots nonprofit dedicated to educating young people about healthy food, Kratzer says, the group has never gotten a lot of celebrity attention. “We were blown away,” she recalls. Read more
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In the Bell Hill neighborhood of Worcester, Massachusetts, Ana Rodriguez walks door-to-door, inviting residents to host a backyard garden plot or volunteer in one nearby, and share in a bounty of local produce at the end of the season. But Rodriguez doesn’t work for an urban farming nonprofit; she represents a nearby hospital. Read more
Collie Graddick wants to do something many might say is impossible: Support traditionally marginalized groups of people through one of the least lucrative occupations in the nation—small-scale farming. And yet, despite the odds, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Read more
In August, five young men showed up at Soul Fire Farm, a sustainable farm near Albany, New York, where I work as educator and food justice coordinator. It was the first day of a new restorative justice program, in partnership with the county’s Department of Law. The teens had been convicted of theft, and, as an alternative to incarceration, chose this opportunity to earn money to pay back their victims while gaining farm skills. They looked wary and unprepared, with gleaming sneakers and averted eyes. Read more
On a rainy November afternoon in Portland, Oregon, 21 high school students took the food handlers’ exam in a church basement. The usual chattering of nearly two dozen young people dropped to a silence as they worked. Sitting upstairs, I could tell when they had finished by the sounds of laughter coming from the basement kitchen.
This fall, Robert Wood started teaching an after-school cooking class in a low-income area of Washington, D.C. When a student’s mother raved about a soup the class had made the week earlier, Wood was thrilled. It was a sign that the recipe itself was a hit and it meant that the student had gone home energized to try the recipe again at home, with her own family. Read more
Last month’s impressive Black Friday protests at a reported 1,000 Walmart stores highlight the growing movement against the company’s low wage culture. As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart has done more than any other company to reinforce income inequality. With an average wage of $8.81 per hour, Walmart keeps its labor expenses low by encouraging its employees to rely on charity and sign up for federal benefits such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP).
The corporation’s impacts on the food system are no less troublesome. It has been at the center of the nation’s cheap food structure, forcing a globalization and industrialization that is grounded in a race to the bottom for labor and environmental standards. It has driven out of business an untold number of small food retailers, which were once the heart and soul of community food systems across rural America. Read more
When Allison Miller lost her job as a server at a restaurant that closed last summer, she wasn’t sure how she would make ends meet while living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
Surviving on unemployment benefits, she was able to qualify for CalFresh, funded through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), AKA food stamps. Although she had limited resources, she wanted to continue to buy her produce at the farmers’ market, where she had developed strong ties with local farmers. Read more
Chef Sean Sherman grew up Ogallala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After working his way up through a number of kitchens in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sherman decided he needed to strike out on his own. In April, he launched his event catering business as “The Sioux Chef.” And he’s working on a restaurant of the same name. Read more
One in 6 workers in the U.S. have food-related jobs; farmers, farmworkers, food processors, servers, and grocery store clerks are all part of the effort to get food to our plates. And yet, they are often invisible.
Five years ago, a handful of worker advocacy organizations came together to form the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance (FCWA) to help ensure that workers from the farm to the bodega have their voices heard. What started as a small coalition has grown to include 24 organizations that collectively represent nearly 300,000 workers along the food chain. Read more