Saturday, March 15, 2014

What is Fair Food?

There are all kinds of terms used in what is called the "food movement" in this country, and I find it confusing. Fair food. Slow food. Food justice. Food equity. I mean, it's probably possible to parse all this to make some sense of it, but what does it mean, really?

The other day I was invited to attend a "viewing party" organized by a local PR firm, Maxwell PR, to watch streaming video of a day-long conference put on by the organization that does TED Talks. (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.) Originating in New York City, it was to be a series of 10-minute presentations called TedXManhattan: Changing the Way We Eat.

One in particular, by Alison Cayne, owner of Haven’s Kitchen, a recreational cooking school, cafe and event space in Manhattan, struck me. She's also on the boards of Just Food, Edible Schoolyard NYC and FERN (Food and Environmental Reporting Network). In other words, a pretty knowledgeable source on what's happening regarding food issues.

She spoke on The Food Movement in a Historical Context, explaining how social movements work through the lens of women's suffrage—40-plus years from the first official meeting of the suffragettes to the passage of the 19th Amendment—and civil rights, which took more than 100 years from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Act. Basically she said that despite the seeming slow pace of change, the food movement as such is right on track with other social movements, at a stage where groups are beginning to work together and awareness is building among the public as to the importance of a safe, sustainable food supply.

Then, and mind you all this was within her 10-minute time frame, it got really interesting. She defined what a fair food system was. In five simple bullet points. Wow! So here you go, fair food in a nutshell:
  1. Every school child can eat a nutritious lunch every day
  2. Fresh vegetables are available at every corner store in even the poorest neighborhoods at an affordable price
  3. Those who have very little to spend on food aren’t forced into a diet that makes them sick
  4. Farmers don’t have to be worried about paying for their kids’ education because their work is valued
  5. People know what they’re buying and have real choice because the food is labeled.
Simple, right? Understandable and non-jargon-laden. So now you know when someone starts talking about fair food, this is what they mean. I get it now!

Photo by Ben Shumin from Wikimedia Commons.


eeldip said...

4 and 5 might be in a bit of conflict.

currently, its GMO fear (financially backed by certain corporate interests) driving labeling laws. why financially burden the system for something with no scientific basis? will farmers and distributers have to change their system and increase costs every few years based on whatever myths are being passed around facebook?

Kathleen Bauer said...

I would argue that if some consumers don't want to buy products that contain GMOs, what would be the harm in giving them that choice with accurate labels? Especially since recent scientific reports in peer-reviewed journals are raising alarms about the effect of GMOs on human health, biodiversity, the environment and social equity. (Here is one report from the UN-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development.)