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Thursday, November 29, 2012

People's Community Market announces Direct Public Offering

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People’s Community Market, founded by Brahm Ahmadi, has announced that it will be offering California residents the opportunity to directly invest in the enterprise as part of its effort to raise capital to create a full-service grocery store in West Oakland.

West Oakland is an inner-city community of 26,000 residents who are predominantly African American and Latino. Although West Oakland residents collectively spend over $58 million a year on groceries, there are no full-service grocery stores in the neighborhood. As a result, 70% of the residents’ grocery spending goes to stores in surrounding cities. But residents (many of whom don’t own a vehicle and rely on public transportation) must travel far to get to distant supermarkets. The inconvenience, time and cost of these shopping trips leads many residents to regularly shop at nearby corner stores that carry mostly processed, poor quality foods sold at high prices.

People’s Community Market will be a small-format, full-service neighborhood food store, health resource center and community hub that supports West Oakland families to attain healthier and more socially connected lives.

By using this Direct Public Offering, People’s Community Market is offering a concrete, local and sustainable way that citizens can take action to address the social and economic problems in West Oakland. Through this community investment model, people of diverse economic backgrounds can participate in creating our business. The company is stressing that this investment opportunity, which starts at $1,000 , is not a donation, nor is it a Wall Street investment. This approach allows for a real and...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turning garbage into food

Originally published in the Washington Post.

Jeremy Brosowsky never pictured himself in the garbage business. A serial entrepreneur, he is 39, with an Ivy League degree and a stint at Goldman Sachs on his résumé. But when he turned his attention to sustainable agriculture, he realized that what Washington needed most wasn’t another urban farm. It was compost — rich, organic matter to enrich city soils — for the city farms already out there.

Trash, even “good” trash like compost, is not usually appetizing enough to make it into the pages of the Food section. But this column’s mission is to highlight businesses that fill the gaps in the sustainable food chain. Composting is one of them: Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage every year. Nearly a third of what is sent to the landfill could be composted but instead sits in an airless hole where it decomposes and releases methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.

 “I don’t think of it as the garbage business,” Brosowsky said. “I’m in the magic business. As I tell my kids, ‘I turn garbage into food.’ ”

Brosowsky remembers the date when he had his eureka moment about composting. On March 21, 2010, he was in Milwaukee atGrowing Power, one of the country’s most successful urban farms, where he...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

Two weeks ago I had the honor of spending an afternoon in Immokalee, Florida with our friends at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. It’s not possible to spend time there without being struck by contrasts in abundance and poverty. The abundance of tens of thousands of tomato plants as far as the eye can see, contrasted with the meager provisions purchased at an Immokalee bodega that will serve as dinner for a worker. The decadent abundance of the mansions along the Florida Gulf coast, located only an hour’s drive from the abhorrent trailers that house a dozen Immokalee tomato pickers.

I’m more than ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with an enormous table full of family, friends and food. It’s a wonderful day to appreciate how fortunate we truly are, as well as a day to remember that no one is free when others are oppressed. And there’s no way of avoiding the fact that overt oppression is occurring in Florida tomato fields.

Despite the tremendous strides made by the Fair Food Program in recent years, the Publix grocery chain refuses to do its part to help farmworkers live a dignified life for the backbreaking, essential work they do day in and day out. In the words of the CIW's Lucas Benitez, "Publix doesn't want us at the table. They want us under the table."

Often we don’t have the opportunity to do anything about issues like this, but thankfully the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have developed a petition asking CEO Ed...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Improve Working Conditions in the Food System with Immigration Reform

Originally published on Civil Eats

Following the election, millions across the nation are breathing a huge sigh of relief (or maybe crying, depending on where you fall politically). And while my friends and I celebrated over wine, cheese, and grapes, I wondered what Obama’s victory foods were. Everyone has a favorite restaurant to celebrate at in his or her hometown. Mine is Trang, a Vietnamese restaurant with an incredible vegan mock-pork in a mild yellow curry that I still crave.

One birthday of mine, I recall sneaking a view of the staff as they cooked our lunch. An older woman stood out in particular–short, with long, grey-streaked hair pulled back into a bun, standing over a large commercial-sized pot. The woman made me think of my own abuelita(grandmother), and I romanticized the notion of Vietnamese grandmothers making savory Pho with care.

But what if that woman who made my lunch that day was the grandmother of another family, not the family she worked for?  And what if the restaurant I loved so much left this woman, or others on their staff unpaid?  Would she have been able to complain to someone, found a way to get what she was owed?  Or would she have gone without...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Moving ahead on food justice

On September 24–26, 2012, hundreds of food justice advocates gathered in Minneapolis for the Food + Justice = Democracy conference. One of the primary features of the conference was the use of a People’s Movement Assembly process to craft principles around food justice. View and comment on the draft Principles of Food Justice or read a summary of the conference and its aims below. Join IATP for a post-conference webinar to review the outcomes and plan for moving forward on November 15. RSVP now.

The U.S food system has never been just, fair or healthy. This is a shocking statement to some, but to the vast majority of people of color and tribal nations in the United States this has always been a reality. This sentiment was the thread connecting many of the conversations throughout all three days of IATP’s Food + Justice = Democracy conference last month in Minneapolis.

African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos experience higher incidence of chronic diseases, higher mortality, and poorer overall health outcomes. To address the health disparities that those communities face, we must recognize their experience in the overall analysis of the...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Would you like more figs with that? Pass a Farm Bill for Farm-to-School

Imagine walking through the lunch line at school, your tummy rumbling as you watch your tray being filled with steaming enchiladas, beans and salad. You can’t wait to start eating, but as you reach the end of the line, someone reaches out and drops a healthy dose of sugar coated dried fig pieces all over your tray. “We’ve got to use the figs,” said a food service director at a training on new federal school food guidelines I recently attended, “sprinkle them on everything you can think of.”

Though I don’t imagine anyone would intentionally put figs on enchiladas, the food service director’s comment made me curious. When I asked him about it, he disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a bag of something resembling chocolate chips. “Here, you can have this,” he said, “one less bag of figs we have to worry about.”

The figs had been purchased and distributed to the school district through the USDA’s Foods program, which supplies agricultural commodities and surpluses to schools across the nation. Schools choosing to take part in the National School Lunch Program, established in 1946 to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children unable to afford the full cost of a school meal, are eligible for cash subsidies and foods from the USDA Foods program for each qualifying meal...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Honor and Restore the Right of the People to Feed Themselves

For the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest, our traditional food system is inextricably intertwined with our identity, and it’s crucial that government food policies honor that bond. The first responsibility of our ancient governing systems was to carry knowledge of how to feed the people. In order to even be considered a leader, one was required to know how to hunt, fish, and gather foods. Then they had to be able to process the foods, prepare them correctly and still be humble enough to serve the people.

In modern tribal governments, the role of our leaders is really not that different, as they work to protect our treaty rights and strategize ways to maintain cultural continuity. The fish drive held this past July by my own tribal government, the Muckleshoot Tribal Council, was an example of these teachings. There, I interviewed Louie Ungaro, a Muckleshoot Tribal Council and Chair of our Fish Commission, who describes a productive modern collaboration between the government and our tribe to conduct the fish drive:

“We got a call from the army corps saying they were going to be lowering the water flows on the White River because they would be working on the dam above. So with us getting that information and collaborating with the Army Corps, the Fish Commission and the Council we were able to give annual leave for tribal members to be...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Restrain Corporate Power and Influence in the Food System

First, I have a confession and a declaration of interest. I worked at an international development bank, and regret it. As a consequence, for better and worse, I am occasionally confronted with the question, “there’s plenty bad about the World Bank, but what should it do to make the world better?” The answer: the World Bank should stop what it’s doing. As the source of development knowledge, and as a principal creditor, the Bank holds a knife to the throats of its debtors – take our money and our advice, or else. Cancelling the loans, closing the Bank’s doors and paying reparations would be a great step forward.

This isn’t an answer that makes people happy. Yet if you saw a man booting someone in the teeth and they asked you what they might do to improve the condition of the person at his feet, you’d likely suggest that before embarking on a positive program, he might consider stopping with the kicking.

So here’s the twist. The groups most often doing the kicking when it comes to the US food system are corporations – the banks, the developers, the marketers, the processors. The unjust increases in diet-related ill-health, no matter how hard they try to shift blame to poor exercise habits, can be traced in no small part to ...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Government Is What We Make Of It

What do we want it to be? Because that is what it will be. I don’t believe “The Government” is a scary demon far removed from our plebeian lives. Government is nothing more than an imperfect set of institutions that we as citizens can employ to improve our society. You and I are the bosses of this thing. Of course, government makes mistakes (as do we). But we shouldn’t conclude that historical missteps eliminate the usefulness of government or diminish our need to keep it accountable.

For example, much is made of farm subsidies in food discussions, but they’re not the only subsidies. Here in New York, a new sports and entertainment arena received$2 billion in government subsidies (a.k.a., our tax dollars). I’m skeptical that this tremendous investment will create the jobs and happiness it’s promised to local residents.

Instead, subsidies can support organizations focused on local jobs and local food.Winston County Self-Help Cooperative and Appalachian Sustainable Development are two groups that have received USDA funding to help keep farmers on their land and build rural economies through good food. This type of government investment makes sense to me because it’s...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pass a Farm Bill Now

Congress has demonstrated a historic level of dysfunction by allowing the farm bill to expire on October 1st. If our legislators can’t get their act together and pass a bill before the end of the year, it could have a dramatic impact on commodity prices and the safety net for farmers. These are issues that impact all of us, and yet, as is usually the case, these legislative stalemates are most harmful to those most at risk: underserved farmers and communities of color. Delaying the passage of this farm bill jeopardizes the fragile policy work done over years by local, state and national groups to make some progress toward a fair, equitable and sustainable agriculture system in this country.

The likely elimination or reduction of several programs that support beginning and organic farmers are a perfect example of the policy discrepancy between the “haves” and “have nots.” Far more than most programs, the National Organic Certification Cost Share program exemplifies multiple agricultural sectors coming together to develop policy that benefits the food system and the environment, while also improving the economic base for organic growers across the country.

Unfortunately, organic farmers can’t get nearly the attention in Congress that is provided to the larger, well-established commodity crop industry. These efforts result in the maintenance of the status quo that protects the interests of big...

Meet the Fellows

Nina Kahori Fallenbaum

Nina Kahori Fallenbaum, the food and agriculture editor of Hyphen magazine, uses independent media to engage Asian American communities in local and national food policy.

Ideas in focus

Cultivating Leadership and Equity in the Food Movement

April 2013

The IATP Food and Community Fellows Program is coming to an end, but it's springtime for our work growing equity in the food system and cultivating diverse leadership in the movement.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

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