Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gathering Round the Table

   Self described foodies like nothing better than to entertain themselves and others with talk about what they ate, how it was prepared, where ingredients came from, and who cooked it. Television has recast food and the people that slice, whip, and braise it as star attractions in an endless line-up of shows that run the gamut from heated contests to step by step tutorials. Another- and to my mind truly bizarre and disturbing- manifestation of our era's obsession with eating are the competitions to determine who's the best at stuffing their pie hole  Winners- those that do it  the fastest  and consume the largest quantity- are celebrities, however briefly.  A local newspaper recently ran a piece that featured a guy who's claim to fame is that he can down 24 chicken wings in three minutes. Only in a land of plenty would such antics even be possible.
   But this isn't a land of plenty for all. There are among us people who are hungry, who can't buy good food close to home, who don't even know what it means to have a healthy diet. For far too many of our neighbors the question on a Saturday night is about what they can afford to serve and not whether or not the restaurant they've chosen has a chef with a Beard award or sources its pork locally. Sadly one of the most powerful determinants of which side of the line you're on is race.  These issues will be addressed in discussions on the Case Western Reserve University campus next month.  

Fried chicken
The Race, Food & Justice conference is a collaborative, 2-day gathering  April 25-26 that will look at policy, problems, programs and potential. The event kicks off Thursday night with a screening of Soul Food Junkies, a documentary that explores the history, social significance and impact of this iconic America cuisine in and on the African-American community. Speakers at the Friday sessions include Erika Allen, Chicago and National Projects Director for Growing Power,  a highly regarded multi-city project focused on urban land use,  sustainable agriculture, and empowering low-income residents and people of color to be part of creating viable food systems for themselves and their cities; Malik Yakini, founder and director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates a seven acre farm; and Mistinguette Smith, founder and director of the Black/Land Project, an effort to collect stories and understand how people of color think about, talk about, and feel their relationship to farmland, urban spaces, and green places. There will be lectures, q & a time, and break-out discussions.
Rid-All participants
  Environmental Health Watch, Growing Power, Rid-All Green Partnership, a Cleveland farming initiative, and CWRU's Social Justice Institute have come together to create this opportunity. It is free and open to the public but space is limited and tickets must be reserved in advance. If this is a conversation you want to be part of, I urge you to get yours now. And even if you don't attend, it serves as a reminder that there's a dark and complex side of what we call the food movement and how  important it is that everyone have a place at the table.


Kim said...

Thanks so much Laura, you really got to the point and it was a great summary of the types of issues we would like to raise and discuss. We appreciate the attention!

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