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SAFSF forum addresses race, class, gender and power in food system

14th annual event speaks to equity, agroecology, health, and climate in enhancing our collective future

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – The Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), an organization that promotes the sustainability and the well being of people, animals, and our planet through food and agriculture systems, held its 14th annual forum recently in Louisville, KY. Its work closely aligns with the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). PHP Associate for National Hunger Concerns, Andrew Kang Bartlett, who serves on the SAFSF Steering Committee, helped introduce this year’s forum and was among an extensive list of speakers during the three-day event.

Nelson Mudzingwa, National Coordinator of ZIMSOFF, Zimbabwe and Blain Snipstal, former PHP Americorps Vista keynoted in the opening plenary and presented during this in-depth workshop on agroecology. Photo provided by Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Nelson Mudzingwa, National Coordinator of ZIMSOFF, Zimbabwe and Blain Snipstal, former PHP Americorps Vista keynoted in the opening plenary and presented during this in-depth workshop on agroecology. Photo provided by Presbyterian Hunger Program.

SAFSF’s mission is to create networking, educational, and collaborative opportunities for supporting just food and farm systems. Its 99 members include secular and faith-based funders, many traditional, family and community foundations, as well as impact investors who support this mission.

More than 250 people from around the country, as well as Zimbabwe and Haiti, attended the forum, which explored ways that racism, classism, gender inequities, and money influence our food system. Models for creating and strengthening alternatives were highlighted, such as agroecology, which also addresses climate change. A sub-theme emphasized the role that art and culture play in creating the vision and working toward positive and lasting change.

Kang Bartlett, who also served on the forum planning committee, feels there is natural alignment between SAFSF and PHP’s work. “Through SAFSF, I’m able to learn about organizations and people doing food justice, urban agriculture, farming and farmland preservation, and policy change work,” he said. “It’s truly a learning community that helps me understand what’s current in all these areas, and how to be good stewards of the One Great Hour of Sharing and PHP funds used to support the most effective groups working in this field.”

Interns with New Roots at one of the 12 Fresh Stop neighborhood markets in Shively at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Photo provided by Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Interns with New Roots at one of the 12 Fresh Stop neighborhood markets in Shively at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Photo provided by Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Forum highlights included story-telling, in-depth workshops, and all-day reality tours featuring local and regional community projects. During the Community Development at Home tour, participants visited Louisville Grows, which runs many community garden projects and is committed to growing a sustainable community through urban agriculture, urban forestry, and environmental education. New Roots, which the PHP supports financially, creates and sustains pop-up Fresh Stop Markets at churches, housing authorities, and community centers in fresh-food insecure neighborhoods in Louisville, New Albany, IN, Brandenburg, KY and Lexington, KY. They work directly with local farmers to bring healthy and affordable, farm-fresh foods to neighborhoods in an attempt to end disparities in food access.

Another group took a local foods journey through the heart of Appalachia, spending the day traveling through Hazard and Whitesburg, KY to learn about the coal industry and hear from grassroots leaders who are rebuilding local food and agriculture systems. Other tours included the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in central Kentucky and the Our Harvest Cooperative Food Hub in Cincinnati, OH, where PHP’s Americorps VISTA member, Casey Henry, had worked.

In his opening remarks to attendees, Kang Bartlett spoke to the growing interest within SAFSF about the term “systems” in their name. The work of the forum consists of how to best support deep policy change, build the organizing capacity of grassroots groups, and catalyze a movement capable of resisting the dominant system to create sustainable alternatives. The longer the group works on food and farm issues, the more evident it is that the current dominant power system perpetuates harm to both people and the environment.

Charles Booker, with Seed Capital KY, presenting the West Louisville Foodport planned for this spot in an impoverished and neglected area of Louisville. Photo provided by Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Charles Booker, with Seed Capital KY, presenting the West Louisville Foodport planned for this spot in an impoverished and neglected area of Louisville. Photo provided by Presbyterian Hunger Program.

“When we say ‘power,’ know that we are acknowledging how corporations and capitalist profit motives are shaping the agrifood system to their benefit,” says Kang Bartlett. “The formidable power of corporations is realized through their research, intellectual property and patents, messaging and marketing, and wealth capture. It is indeed a daunting challenge, but I love that SAFSF doesn’t shy away from great challenges because ecosystems and lives are at stake.”

PHP’s strategic partners, Grassroots International, Pesticides Action Network, Thousand Currents, and WhyHunger, and grantee organizations, Farmworkers Association of Florida, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, New Roots, and RAFI International also participated in this year’s forum.

 

Gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering help support the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

 


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