Archives for posts with tag: Food as a Commons

Just watched this inspiring talk via The Foodways Project, “an exploration of the intersection between food, identity, and power. [Their} mission is to undo racism through food-focused education, empowerment, and activism in a movement led by people of color.”

Visit their blog for a collection of video resources on the theme of Celebrating Indigenous Foodways for Native American Heritage Month, where I happened upon Valerie Segrest’s talk, linked above.

Advertisements

For Food System and Food Waste activists, please find linked below a very informative piece on the packing and distribution of vegetables and “surplus,” – a concept itself we might seek to re-imagine. One definitely sees supermarkets having too much market share and therefore power to define the situation in which waste is normalised. I’m all in favour of the middle-scaled ground of wholesaling with its chain through town markets and other smaller grocery venues attracting our customer support (a little different from farmers’ markets per se, which I also support). We need to furthermore be thinking about ethical and local procurement for schools, canteens, care homes etc., and councils can help with this, a level at which hopefully “stakeholders” from various points of view should have influence.

Of course wounds need plasters, and NO ONE SHOULD BE HUNGRY. But let’s be careful how we link food waste with hunger, because causes and effects of both are really complicated. For the moment I don’t give an automatic thumbs up to “solutions” that legislate that supermarkets give waste to charities, as this degrades value for farmers, enshrines waste in the system, and institutionalises a charity approach to hunger — let alone gives a message of shame to people needing social support and help. Food is a right and governments need to recognise this. More on these thoughts soon.

In the meantime, this is a really practical article (and blog in general) to get us thinking.

It’s great that the volume of this conversation keeps rising, at the moment thanks to Hugh’s War On Waste on television, and of course gratitude to all the background work done in food waste salvage from field to skip and community feast events and cafes in saving food and raising awareness.  I also see a great opportunity here in which the often polarised perspectives of farmers and environmentalists can be narrowed, because there’s so much room to work together on shared concerns as we re-localise, or at least, focus on smaller hubs of food production and consumption to reduce waste with all its ecological footprint and ensure value and reward for people who grow food.

systems4food

In my last blog I questioned the volumes of waste or rather surplus produce in the supply chain. I also raised the question why this surplus arises.
The majority of fresh produce in the UK is being grown for supermarket sales, as currently, apart from some relatively small volumes of local or direct sales, they are the only outlets that can handle the volumes required to give an economic return. There are secondary markets which include processing for freezing and manufacturing sectors, catering food service and  finally wholesale outlets. All of these markets have different requirements and what one sector wants is often different to others.
When planning a crop growers usually (almost always) have the end market in mind. The cropping plan, soils, fertiliser regime, pesticides applied, plant spacing, irrigation, harvest and storage conditions all determine the suitability of a product for its end market. Long gone are the…

View original post 854 more words

When welfare reforms result in hunger, is the government failing its international human rights obligations?

This video explains the issues really well.

Reblogged from Church Action on Poverty.

On the Greek island of Lesbos, thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war-torn countries are coming to shore each week,” writes Annia Clezadio.  Local people are responding in the spirit of Social Kitchens, recognising real need, cooking and eating together. creating meals as a place of sharing and shared humanity rather than charity. Read “This Kid Came Up to Ask How Much the Food Cost. I Told him It Was Free” on Upworthy for a really inspiring picture of how things can be — how things are in fact, pockets of hope and kindness in the hugeness of crisis facing refugees from war in Syria and elsewhere.  It’s the best thing I’ve read in a while, so READ IT — and it includes a recipe for Kosta’s Bigouli for 1,000, a warm-spiced pasta dish that resonates as comfort food throughout the different communities.  You can help out here.

A long spoon, a bit pot. Photo by Annia Ciedzlo

More of Kosta, in Athens:

Even in our part of mid-Wales, even at the level of current hardship our British Austerity presents, there’s a choice– and you hear this reflected in the way people respond to the possibility of “migrants” and refugees coming to settle among us.  There’s a fear that there’s not enough to share. It’s around this fear that things get ugly, that racist attitudes get enflamed, that a sense of protecting one’s own community becomes something you choose over helping people, which you’d like to be able to do, if.  If.

The Parable of the Long Spoons is so instructive, such a powerful guide, to remember there’s more for everything in the sharing, perhaps especially when circumstances feel the most dire. This seems to be what’s happening on Lesbos, in Greece.  It’s not a choice between Them and Us, the best choice is Them and Us together.

—————–

I commend Annia Ciezadio for picking up on the “story.”  I think we have a lot to look forward to in her writings and exploration of war and food.

Here’s something truly amazing Annia Ciezadlo wrote about community gardens and people trying to feed themselves in Yarmouk, the long time Palestinian camp in Damascus that’s been for years now under siege by Assad government troops and more lately by ISIL as well.  Somehow, in spite of violence, starvation, illness, assassination– truly desperate at a level hard to imagine — people are managing a dark sense of humour and keep planting seeds and moving forward.   Another must-read.

————-

 

GOFUNDME to get money to Kosta for his work

“I wanted to be kissed by hummingbirds every day,” says Ron Finley.  “I wanted to see butterflies.  I wanted to smell lavender, and jasmine, and rosemary. That’s where it started.”

In case you missed it, as I somehow did, you can watch his amazing TED Talk on his website.

“Funny thing, the drive-through is killing more people than the drive-by.”

He’s got a vision of cities and how people and plants can live in them.  He is all about health for people, for ecology, and for beauty.

“The problem is the solution.  Food is the problem, food is the solution.”

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus you get strawberries.”

“The funny thing about sustainability, you have to sustain it.”

Ron Finley has the gift of energy and the gift to inspire, and a boundless supply of fantastic one-liners.  He’s the kind of DIY-meets-Social Change that brings hope.

Watch this video and see how seeds are so much a part of the commons,  in societies around the world.  Seed sharing not selling– a foundation of Food Sovereignty and therefore Food Security, as well as the continuance of culture and community…  It can all be a bit abstract, like the language I’ve just used, until you see women like these talking about the seeds that sustain their lives.

Yesterday I came across these videos and wanted to share them on Kitchen Counter Culture.

Insight Share is a really interesting organisation that brings training and video equipment to remote communities across the globe.  The idea is that people who lack economic and technical access are shared the means to tell their own stories and communicate with each other through video and internet. This movement is called “Participatory Video.” Read the rest of this entry »

MgvRsIdv.jpg-small

Through Twitter I recently happened upon a paper called “Selling out on the Revolution for a Plate of Beans’? Communal Dining in Peru and What We Can Learn From It.”  It’s a research project by Bryce Evans, who is a Food History academic in Liverpool. He also runs a community eating and cooking project in that city which is based on a kind of alternative vision to food banks, as he discusses in this video.

In his paper Evans asks: “What can the UK learn from the Peruvian model of egalitarian eating? What does this suggest about the role of the State vis-à-vis individuals and voluntary groups? And can the UK develop its food bank network so that it resembles the community kitchen movement of Peru?”

Evans compares the community kitchen movement as a mode of social eating and food distribution in various ways. Food banks in the UK can barely deal with fresh food, for instance, which is clearly an issue for nutrition.  There’s also the problem that hungry people often have no way to heat the foods they are given at food banks.  (I mean to write a piece called “In Praise of the Microwave” since that’s all that so many low-income renters have to cook with.) Emergency provision of food is also an opportunity for offering other services and meeting lots of social needs at once.

His paper is really worth a read for the important questions it raises, and its discussion of a really interesting self-help model I’d never known about:

 “The women who ran these simple food shacks largely avoided any political rhetoric. Most wanted change, but first and foremost they desired change for the good of their communities. Their vision of communal cohesion, development and food security did not necessarily coincide with the political goals of the state or its guerrilla enemies….Put simply, the women who ran the community kitchens wanted to feed people cheaply and nutritiously and they wanted the state to help out [by guaranteeing the provision of rice and beans] if possible.”

For me it brought to mind Graham Riches’ work in Canada (summarised in this recent newspaper piece).  “Given the urgent issue of food poverty,” he writes, [there is] a missed opportunity to change the public and political conversation from food charity to the right to food, informed by internationally recognised human rights principles and framework legislation.”  Jose Luis Vivero Pol might take this idea further, conceptually, from the Right to Food to food as a commons, which is a shift away from the current understanding of food as a commodity.

The powerful part of the community eating model in Peru is its social function in which food isn’t reduced to nutritional sustenance (commodified in an economic system) but comes with a whole lot more– community cohesion, social expectation that children should have healthy snacks, etc. Bryce Evans writes of the Liverpool program he runs:

“Manna’s project is a step above the traditional food bank model in that we do not provide hand-outs but instead focus on skills training, technical workshops, mentoring programmes and outreach work. …[W]e encourage people – young and old – to chop up vegetables and cook with us and to help us grow food, thus transferring broader skills…. Our project provides a community hub which, in a challenging and often alienating economic climate, brings people together.”

There seem to be many community kitchen/ communal eating projects around the UK, and I’d love to start gathering a list — alternative, loving, community oriented responses to hunger that bring people together around food, eating together, as do the Comedores Populares in Peru…

There is also, within the Local Food and community growing movements in the UK a great opportunity to think how we can contribute our broad and integrated notions about health and sustainability and food justice to fighting hunger, building community, changing the food system and the conception of food.  This is something I will work on in my way; please be in touch if you are interested in sharing information and strategy.

And please be in touch if you know of more projects like these– People’s Kitchens, free and cheap community cooking and eating, food festivals that don’t take the system off the hook yet celebrate deliciousness and the opportunity to do things differently.  We could really benefit networking, and learning as well how people are working with community gardens and free food and local food projects making the food tastier, healthier, and less charity, supermarket and waste reliant.

Though of course resourcefulness with waste is important, let’s not tangle the two conversations.

And Food Banks do have an important emergency function.  This is an American article but I think it offers good advice what to donate.

(Ok, maybe I wish he weren’t doing the send-up of Yes We Have No Bananas in the fake Caribbean accent, but I like the spirit, the internationalism, the multi-lingualism, the ukelele, the laughter, and of course the campaign for preserving food diversity and localism.)

Here’s a link to Seed Freedom’s Open Letter on GMO Bananas.  It’s perhaps a bit rambling, but an incredible piece that weaves together botany, politics, history, culture and art.  Reading it I realise how little I know about the world diversity of bananas.  I also never knew the poem, La United Fruit Co., by Pablo Neruda himself!

At the core of the letter is a profound belief I share:

“We do not need biopirates and biocolonialists … falsely claiming invention and monopoly rights over these local community controlled resources and biodiverse solutions for hunger and nutrition.”

The understanding is, in patenting food through genetic modification, it can only be sold back to people in a food system that relies on a foundation of treacherous economics.  A Food Sovereignty model envisions a less abstracted and tenuous relationship of people to their food– such as they may already have, banana trees growing in local varieties where they live.   Food-as-a-Commons — common heritage, common entitlement, inalienable — is a vision which makes patenting even more preposterous.

Anyway, just wanted to share the video and the campaign.

BFicon

SHARING THE LOVE…

My first child’s first food, as a newborn, was donated breast milk, and I’ll always be grateful she had such a great first start. Huge gratitude to that generous woman in the ” breastfeeding room” of the hospital; she sat there pumping her milk into little plastic bottles that went into the fridge there for the use of whoever needed it.  It took me a couple of weeks to get my proper flow going.

This is a thrilling story, the first Human Baby Milk Bank in North India.

Read the rest of this entry »

When I moved to New York City in the late eighties, there would be fading purple footprints of Adam Purple to follow, he who would paint his feet and walk.  It’s over half my life later and I’ve learned more about his life and work through videos as this one.  I’m inspired today by the Garden of Eden concept, hard-working utopians in urban areas imagining and creating a world of lushness and freedom and innocence and beauty and community.

Since encountering the idea of Food as a Commons, I’ve been determined to figure out how to communicate why this feels important, and how to bring it into more shared awareness, and consciousness.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: