Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Occupy the Food System

Occupy the Food System and Support Local Farmers and Food Businesses

December 4th, 2011 in Zuccotti Park in New York, was designated Occupy the Food System. Farmers, gardeners, food justice activists and others joined the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to bring attention to the corporate control that has been the hallmark of our industrial food system. One of the ideas behind the occupy movement is that change can come only when you confront your oppressors directly on their turf. That makes them uncomfortable, it gets attention, and it wakes up the public.

In his recent blog, Occupy the Food System: The world can feed itself, without corporate America's science-experiment crops and expensive chemicals, Jim Goodman (a farmer, himself) writes:

The Occupy movement is doing exactly what the prominent student activist Mario Savio spoke of in 1964, when he declared: "There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the apparatus and you've got to make it stop — and you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from running at all." The people who are now forming a movement to occupy the food system agree with this sentiment too. Joining this movement is one way to get involved. There are many others as well and we need to use every strategy available.

In Detroit, we know that the food system isn't working for any us. The lack of access to fresh, healthy, affordable LOCALLY grown food is coupled with access to cheap, processed foods, produced by the giant corporate food system with ingredients sourced globally. This is the food system that corporate America has given us and is selling to the rest of the world.

According to an article in The Guardian, NestlĂ© is using a floating supermarkets to take its products to remote communities in the Amazon. Unilever has a small army of door-to-door vendors selling to low-income villages in India and west and east Africa. The brewer SABMiller has developed cheap beers in some African countries as part of a “price ladder” to its premium lager brands, and, as a leading Coca-Cola bottler and distributor, is aiming to double fizzy drinks sales in South African townships.

However, people all over the world are fighting for a better way. We can and do have other options. Detroiters are leading the local food movement and join with national and international activists in creating a healthier, local, fair food system.

So, how can our choices impact the local food system?

According to the report, Local Works: Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy, A Civic Economics Study for Local First, Grand Rapids Michigan, every $100 spent with local businesses results in $73 staying in the local economy. This compares to just $43 staying in the local economy when purchasing from non local businesses. The dollars that stay in our community supports families and neighborhoods, both directly and indirectly.  Read the study here:  http://www.localfirst.com/

So, when you plan to make purchases for yourself or your family or buy gifts, why not consider supporting local farmers and food businesses? There are many to choose from! From the purchasing directly from farmers and vendors to buying from local Detroit based businesses.

Whenever I need a gift, one of my personal favorites is making gift baskets with local products. There are so many to choose from! To put together a local gift basket with fresh produce and other items, you can start with the farmers and vendors at Eastern Market, which is open all year round. http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/  

One of the seasonal Farmer’s Markets (generally open from June to October) is a great place, too.  http://detroitmarkets.org/  There are many local farmers and food businesses who participate on Saturdays, so there is lots of choose from. One of my favorite gifts: a two pound bag of potatoes with an array of herbs and spices and recipes. There are also items like coffee, teas, pickles, jams and jellies, potato chips, salsa and many other items.

I am also known to make jams, pickled vegetables, salsas and sauces to give as gifts.  This summer, I made cherry and blueberry vinegar with Michigan fruit.  It's so yummy that I am not sure that it will make it out of the house!

These are easy, fun and delicious ways to Occupy the Food System, but we need to go beyond.  By becoming actively engaged, we can have a bigger impact.  For example, Just Label It campaign in California was successful in getting an initiative on the ballot that would require labeling of all products in the state of California that contains genetically modified ingredients.  If this initiative passes, we can expect more states to do the same.  This would be a huge victory for consumers, who should have the right to know what is in our food.  You can support this project by going to website;  http://justlabelit.org/

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