Eric Holt Gimenez, Executive Director of Food First, a leading institute in food justice and sovereignty initiatives worldwide discusses the urgency of politicizing the food system.
For some of us who really care about food, there are no shortage of frustrations when we encounter the sort of foodie politics that accept shopping at Whole Foods, buying organic, and poo-pooing meat eaters as adequate contribution to a better food system. To take it a step further, there are those who get behind school food reform, push for changes in the farm bill, and actively bring urban farming and food awareness initiatives to their neighborhoods and communities using what socio-political clout they can muster. But as Holt-Giminez reminds us:
..many community food organizations have become dependent on the diminishing funding streams from the very foundations that helped them get off the ground. The nation’s economic downturn has further affected community organizations, forcing them to tighten belts, cut staff, eliminate programs and compete for scarce resources at a time when communities need them more than ever. This makes them vulnerable to cooptation.
For a movement, following a funding stream is the tail wagging the dog. Movements are about creating political will for the benefit of all. They converge, unifying and amplifying popular voices around a shared vision. Politically, movements cannot afford to be disarmed by money, silenced or divided.
A movement to “occupy the food system” will need to put healthy food in our communities and community voices in places of power.
How, if at all, can the food justice movement move from alternative/fringe to center/mainstream? It’s clear that it won’t happen through mainstream agriculture monopolies, and ever diplomatic or self-interested political and international institutions (governments, WHO, UN, WTO). Already, with global food prices at an alarming high and domestic feeding programs stepping in where unemployment benefits and income fall short, these institutions are slow to respond to root causes.
So what will it take?