The Food Fighters series is made up of M@M’s journeys across the U.S. and in her home city of Washington, D.C., journeys through which she is visiting as many organizations that work on issues related to food equity and justice as she possibly can. She is seeking to examine places that focus on food production, distribution, and nutritional/cooking education, particularly within lower-income populations. Food Fighters will highlight both individual organizations and the local food systems as a whole within cities across America. This is the sixth piece in the series.
February. Ugh. Despite being my birth month, I find February to be generally dreary, depressing, and dark. My visits to food justice organizations are also typically curtailed because everyone prefers to be seen in ‘peak’ season (and also-I’ll say it-I’m a wimp who doesn’t relish traveling to Detroit or Chicago in the dead of winter). Lucky for me, two terrific gatherings took place right in my backyard this year that gave me a glimpse into both Washington, DC’s and New York City’s sustainable and local food scenes, and I didn’t even have to set foot outdoors.
Rooting DC took place on February 18th and was sponsored by the Field to Fork Network, a loose conglomeration of organizations within the District of Columbia that works on improving the city’s food system. In its fifth year, this event was FREE (lunch was a nominal cost) and open to the public. The main focus of the workshops and sessions was home and urban gardening, but the day also included cooking demonstrations, discussions on food equity and classes specifically for kids. Held at a local high school, the gym was converted into an information fair with representatives from the city’s urban gardens, food pantries, environmental groups, and healthy cooking organizations stationed to provide information and recruit volunteers.
The Just Food conference sold out well before it’s February 24th and 25th weekend began and with good reason. The 2-day gathering was packed with informative sessions, workshops and panels and cost just $30-$50 for a conference pass that included a Good Food Jobs Fair and a local food expo (read: Free Brooklyn Brewery beer). Just Food has existed since 1995 working to “connect communities and local farms with resources to ensure all New Yorkers can receive local food”and runs the gamut from CSA’s and Farmer’s Markets to community awareness campaigns and food education. They even conduct a farm school for urban agriculture! Perhaps my favorite role of Just Food is the alliances and partnerships they work to form as they go. The conference is a chance to convene around various topics from community organizing to emergency food systems to empowering food justice in underserved neighborhoods to fracking to farming to sustainable harvesting and cooking; this conference truly covered it all. The most difficult part of the weekend was wading through the plethora of workshop offerings to choose sessions to attend. The large group panels were no less compelling and included the USDA’s Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan discussing the newly unveiled “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” web hub and a group of four local farmers discussing the ins and out of running a successful operation. Other highlights were the “food talks” given by Tanya Fields of The BLK Project (she honestly brought down the house), Joan Gussow (still inspiring at age 80+ !), Garrett Oliver (brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery) and George Weld (founder of local food restaurant Egg). This conference also sported the best inclusive lunch I have ever had the pleasure of gobbling up with 1,000+ of my food activist friends.
Conferences such as Rooting DC and Just Food 2012 do so much more than inform and teach. They inspire and connect those on the ground, giving them the resources and support to persevere. Through unity and concerted effort, we CAN make a difference in establishing a more just, local and sustainable food system!
To learn more about Rooting DC and the DC Field to Fork Network, visit here.
To learn more about Just Food in NYC, visit here. (Also, check out their “Day in the Life” auction before March 11 to bid on a chance to spend the day with your food hero! All proceeds benefit the great work of Just Food.)
To read more about the Food Fighters tour, follow @FoodFightersUS on twitter, like us on Facebook or visit the FF blog here.