Farm to Every Fork

Eric Holt-Giménez | 10.10.2014

In September I had the honor of speaking at “Farm to Every Fork” in Sacramento, California. The benefit banquet was put on by Slow Food Sacramento and the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC) to benefit SHOC/Homeward Journal, the River City Food Bank, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Sacramento Food Not Bombs and the Fund for Urban Gardening. A $150 ticket bought you a delicious meal of local food delicacies—it also bought a hungry person a meal at your table.

Farm to Every Fork is Sacramento’s “other” farm to fork event. As self-proclaimed capital of the Farm to Fork movement, for the past two years Sacramento has invited farmers, chefs and vintners to share their wares and expertise in a remarkable $175 a plate epicurean extravaganza held on the city’s Tower Bridge spanning the Sacramento River. But despite the high-level success (this year dozens of local chefs, farmers, vintners, thirty mayors and 750 gourmands attended the gala dinner), a number of people in Sacramento’s food justice and Slow Food community began to wonder if the high profile celebration of food and farming also presented an opportunity to bring attention to Sacramento’s pressing issues of poverty, homelessness and food insecurity.

At Farm to Every Fork, Sacramento’s “other” farm to fork event, a $150 ticket bought you a delicious meal of local food delicacies—it also bought a hungry person a meal at your table.

For Charity Kenyon of Slow Food Sacramento, the Slow Food motto of “Good, Clean and Fair Food for All” meant that everyone had the right to eat good food—not just those who could afford splurge on the Farm to Fork Feast. A chance meeting with civil rights attorneys Mark Merin and Cathleen Williams out gazing at wintering cranes in the delta with SHOC Executive Director Paula Lomazzi and board member Regina Range led to a conversation, an inspiration and a commitment to do something in the original spirit of the Slow Food movement. Farm to Every Fork was born. Slow Food Sacramento President Coral Henning and Youth Projects Director Chef Brenda Ruiz rounded out the core committee with volunteers from all the beneficiary organizations and other local nonprofits and schools.

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Held at the spacious Trinity Cathedral in downtown Sacramento, the event was a celebration not just of good food but of good will across the deepening social and economic divides that plague our food system. Rural and urban farmers, vintners, chefs, activists, people without homes and members of the faith community gathered to eat course after course of delicious, locally-grown food. Tables in the cathedral courtyard held farm products, literature, tools and information about groups serving the homeless and hungry. There was a raffle with dozens of goods, art, bikes and keepsakes. The “audible auction” offered among other things, a full vegetable garden installation by a resident from an historically low income area in Sacramento. Altogether some $15,000 was raised after chefs, farmers, and servers were paid – another Slow Food priority.

I am still struck by the words of Regina Range, a SHOC homeless board member who spoke eloquently and passionately about what it is like to not know where your next meal is coming from.

I am still struck by the words of the brave people who took the stage before me. Regina Range, a SHOC homeless board member spoke eloquently and passionately about her struggle for survival and dignity after having lost her job and her home and what it is like to not know where your next meal is coming from. Chanowk Yisrael, a young urban farmer from Oak Park neighborhood shared his belief in teaching his community to grow their own food, not only to eat well, but to earn an income and the respect of the community. Community elder Mr. Blackwell took the stage with the Reverend Brother Carter to recount how he has set up tables to give away free food, once a week, for decades, to feed the hungry in his neighborhood. He asked for funds to buy new tables to serve more people.

Then, of course, there were the table conversations among a crowd that was equally divided between those with secure access to good food and those who are chronically food insecure… the “Stuffed and the Starved” my friend Raj Patel might say. But this time, everyone was filled, and not just with good food and drink, but with hope that together we might build a compassionate and fearless movement—one that can usher in a food system that works for everyone.

Farm to Fork may be a righteously proud celebration of Sacramento’s food and farming community, but Farm to Every Fork, inserted at the beginning of the week-long activities, is a reminder that hunger is still widespread—even in the midst of abundance. It is also a call to come together to right the injustices that cause poverty and hunger in the land of plenty, and a demonstration of the power of shared stories around a common table to change the way we eat.

Featured image by Mapurunga Photography