2015 Annual Report: 40 Years at the Forefront of the Struggle to end the Injustices That Cause Hunger!

| 03.29.2016

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Dear Friends, Colleagues and Comrades,

For four decades Food First has been the U.S.’s primary think tank providing trenchant analyses of the root causes of hunger. We’ve highlighted the alternatives for a sustainable and equitable food system, linked the issues and formulated strategies with the growing food movement through our work of education for change, research for action and projects for transformation. We’ve done it all with the social movements for economic justice and food sovereignty and with you—our staunch supporters. Thank you!

For four decades Food First has been the U.S.’s primary think tank providing trenchant analyses of the root causes of hunger. We’ve highlighted the alternatives for a sustainable and equitable food system, linked the issues and formulated strategies with the growing food movement through our work of education for change, research for action and projects for transformation. We’ve done it all with the social movements for economic justice and food sovereignty and with you—our staunch supporters. Thank you!

This year we doubled down on food justice, food sovereignty and an end to racism in the food system. Our continent-wide speaking tour started at the 2015 Just Food Conference in New York City, blazed through the East Coast and the Deep South then swung back to the West Coast, hitting spots from Vancouver to Los Angeles. We held meetings, gave lectures and interviews, participated in learning sessions and engaged in broad-based community dialogues at universities, colleges, churches, libraries, community radio stations and town halls.

Many people we talked with are shocked by the scandalously high rates of food insecurity and diet-related disease in underserved communities; the grinding poverty and desperate living conditions of farm and food workers; and the concentration of farmland, water and wealth in fewer and fewer hands. They reject the contamination, pollution and corporate concentration in our food system. And they are equally outraged about the rising levels of police violence in poor communities of color. Our conversations quickly moved to the structural and historical causes of violence and inequity in our food system—and then on to what we can do about it.

The good news is that we found people working together for productive and equitable alternatives to address the injustices causing hunger. It is heartening to see how the food movement is growing more diverse and becoming more progressive. Informed citizen engagement is changing the way we grow, market and consume food. And it is also contributing to rebuilding our public sphere through the social networks that this creates.

Our 40th Anniversary activities were—you guessed it—political and educational celebrations that brought farmers, activists, educators, journalists and students together to learn, reflect and strategize on how to transform our food systems locally, nationally and worldwide:

We worked closely with the food justice movement in the US and with the food sovereignty movement abroad to fight for people’s right to healthy and culturally-appropriate food produced through ecologically-sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems.

Some highlights include editing a special edition for the Nyeleni Newsletter on Food Justice and Food Sovereignty in the US where we drew links and lessons between the US food justice movement and the international food sovereignty movement. In 2015 we participated on the Coordinating Committee of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to stop both rural and urban land grabs here in the US and to bring the fight against racism in our food system to the broader public. We co-sponsored the 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize. This year the US-based Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Honduran OFRANEH—the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras received awards in Des Moines, Iowa on October 14. Food First published an article with Truthout entitled “A Tale of Two Food Prizes” to highlight the fundamental differences between the World Food Prize and the Food Sovereignty Prize. The Prize was awarded during the Month of Community Power: Reclaim the Commons, a campaign we co-created through the Land & Resources Committee and the Coordinating Committee of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.

Food First research and insights were shared broadly. In 2014 and 2015 we taught five intensive Masters courses in food justice and food sovereignty in Italy at the University for the Study of Gastronomic Sciences and one online Masters course in Food Systems and Society at Marylhurst University in Portland, Oregon, plus lectures at dozens of other universities and colleges.

As droughts, fires and hurricanes increasingly disrupt food production around the world, Food First continues to address the intricate relationship of agriculture and climate change by promoting climate justice. Because they are among the most vulnerable to extreme weather events, the world’s smallholder farmers—who produce over half the world’s food—are on the front lines of feeding themselves and their communities while cooling the planet and preserving biodiversity.

Food First works with farmers and researchers around the world to teach agroecology—the science of sustainable agriculture. This year the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held a Regional Seminar on Agroecology in Latin America and the Caribbean. Food First was there with the delegation from SOCLA—the Latin American Scientific Society for Agroecology, providing data and advocating for farmer-led agroecology. See SOCLA’s analysis of the FAO’s initiative here. In October I was honored with a lifetime achievement award in agroecology at SOCLA’s 5th International Congress in La Plata, Argentina.

To promote knowledge exchanges between researchers and farmers, Food First and SOCLA brought Latin American agroecologists to share farming techniques with U.S. small-scale farmers in a North-South Dialogue on Agroecology. And we continue to build the capacity of local urban farmers in underserved communities through our East Bay Urban Farmer Field Schools which are based on the farmer-to-farmer method we use in the Campesino a Campesino and We Are the Solution movements in Latin America and Africa. Our Mali Seed Campaign continues to support small-scale farmers in war-torn area of Gao, Mali to grow their own food.

With “land grabs” sweeping the globe in both rural and urban areas, Food First continued our Land & Sovereignty in the Americas program to bring together researchers and activists from Canada to Chile. This year we began work on Land Justice: Reimagining Land, Food and the Commons in the United States, an edited volume that brings together the voices of activists and scholars working on issues of rural land consolidation, urban gentrification, Black land loss, Native land rights, farm labor, marine and aquatic resources, and more.

In 2015 Food First’s Food Sovereignty Tours took 88 people to Cuba, South Korea, the Basque Country and Hawaii. We published a Development Report on the World Bank’s Agricultural Action Plan, a Policy Brief with GRAIN on Agro-colonialism in the Congo, three backgrounders and two books. Food First researchers published, authored and co-authored six different academic publications in the Journal of Peasant Studies, Third World Quarterly and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development. We filmed 35 activist videos and published hundreds of human interest stories of people taking back their food system in our newsletters. At Food First’s monthly community forums at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, CA, activists and academics presented on a broad range of issues, from Professor Roxanne Dunbar speaking on “An Indigenous People’s History of the United States” to community leaders sharing insights from Food Policy Councils in San Francisco’s East Bay.

As we move into our 41st year, Food First will continue to focus on movement building, agroecology, food justice and food sovereignty. We have just launched a new strategic alliance to open a SOCLA-North America chapter sponsored by Food First. We’ll continue to shine a spotlight on justice in the food and farm worker sectors with our Food Workers-Food Justice newsletters and People Putting Food First will highlight the gains of the food movement. We’ll launch a new publication series called Dismantling Racism in the Food System and will promote climate-resilient community food systems in underserved communities to end hunger and cool the planet.

We’ve come this far because of the unwavering support from allied family foundations and dedicated member-donors like you. We look forward to another year of exciting challenges and important victories in our fight against hunger! Thank you for all that you do to support and share our vision of a world without hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.

 

With gratitude,

Eric Holt-Giménez

Executive Director

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