The Food Project: Youth. Food. Community.

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An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Dear Michelle Obama,

Congratulations on choosing to plant a food garden on the White House grounds.  Now imagine that mini-farm on the White House grounds being tended by youth from Washington DC!  Give young people the opportunity to contribute purposefully to their community by growing food for the hungry and caring for the land. The Food Project has been doing this for almost 20 years in the Boston area. What a great way to inspire other youth across the USA to literally see that the fruits of their labor can create change in their own communities.

Hire a teenage farmer and challenge all of us to engage in a new way of thinking, acting, and being. Teens from across the district, together as a team, will plant the seeds of cooperation, community and pride as they grow, harvest and distribute the bounty of their shared labor. We believe in the ability to inform a new generation of leaders by placing teens in responsible roles, with deeply meaningful work.

The Food Project has been guided by the belief that community is created by providing common ground - in toiling, harvesting and sharing of the bounty.   We celebrate collaboration, cooperation and the value of a hard day’s work. A White House Garden tended by teens from across the city’s social, racial and economic neighborhoods can inspire a youth movement across the land.

When youth experience the value of labor and service while building a diverse and effective community they discover and develop their talents, make friends and test themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Inviting youth to serve and to take risks offers a chance to see oneself and the world differently and encourages the same in each volunteer, neighbor, and friend.

Thank you.

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Now What? Seven Priorities for the Food Movement in the Age of Obama and Why Young People Will Lead the Way

by Anim Steel

“Is a sustainable food strategy on Obama’s menu?” asked Derrick Jackson in a December 30, 2008 Boston Globe column.  Don’t depend on it, he concluded, despite some pretty encouraging signs from the Obama camp.  The new president will face serious “blowback” from the agribusiness industry, he noted.  That’s a lobby that Michael Pollan described as the second most powerful in DC.

So if Obama doesn’t lead the way, who will?  And even if he proves to be a champion of sustainable food policy, what will bridge the enormous gap between vision and reality? What will force revolutionary change all the way from Capitol Hill to the corner store?

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Leading Food Advocates To Visit Farmworker Community Dubbed “Ground Zero for Modern Slavery"

Immokalee, FL – On Wednesday, March 4th, a dozen prominent authors, sustainable food advocates, and small farmers participated in a day-long delegation to Immokalee, Florida witnessing firsthand the miserable living and working conditions of migrant farmworkers. Delegates spent the day with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nationally recognized farmworker organization at the forefront of fighting to improve farmworkers’ sub-poverty wages; combating forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry; and demanding that corporate food retailers use their market power to ensure more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.

Who was there?  Anim Steel, Director of National Programs, The Food Project

Frances Moore Lappé, Author, Diet for a Small Planet; Raj Patel, Author, Stuffed and Starved; Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA; Bill Ayres, Executive Director, World Hunger Year; Ben Burkett, President, National Family Farm Coalition; Mike Moon, Family Farm Defenders;
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Development Policy;
LaDonna Redmond, President & CEO, Institute for Community Resource Development;
Tom Philpott, Food Editor and Columnist, Grist.org; Jim Goodman, Organic Farmer;

Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for the corporate food industry are among the country’s least paid, least protected workers. They earn about 45 cents for every 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes they pick – a rate that has not changed significantly in 30 years – working from dusk to dawn without the right to overtime pay. They receive no benefits and are excluded from the right to organize. In the most extreme cases, captive workers are held against their will by their employers through threats or violence – including beatings, shootings, and pistol-whippings.

There have been seven federal prosecutions by the Department of Justice for forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry in the past ten years, involving well over one thousand farmworkers.

This is the first-ever delegation of sustainable food advocates to Immokalee. The delegation is hosted by Just Harvest USA, a national organization that aims to build a more just and sustainable food system with a focus on establishing fair wages, humane working conditions, and fundamental rights for farmworkers. They achieve this through broad public education about the conditions in which our food is produced and mobilizing support for farmworker-led and other grassroots campaigns.

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