By Thomas Fisher, WhyHunger Communications Intern, Summer 2014.LVEJO3

From 1985-2013, WhyHunger recognized hundreds of innovative and inspired grassroots organizations across the nation with the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award. In 2013, we honored Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) for their incredible work in Chicago. We’re excited to share what they’ve been up to:

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) addresses environmental justice and builds community power in the predominantly Mexican southwest Chicago neighborhood of Little Village. The group organizes for democracy and a voice in decisions about how, when and where development happens in the community, working to end pollution and toxic waste and increase public transit and green space in Little Village and throughout Chicago. The funds from the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award were used to support the LVEJO Urban Agriculture Project, including laying the groundwork for the neighborhood’s first urban farm cooperative, the Las Semillas de Justicia community garden.

little village environmental justice organization

Breaking ground at the LVEJO garden site.

The Las Semillas de Justicia community garden, created and led by the community, is focused on, “giving community members a space to grow organic food that many can no longer afford due to inflating costs.” LVEJO is made up of both youth and adult volunteers from Troy, Chicago. The group works with families who are fighting for food security, food justice, and environmental justice in their communities.

Through the support of WhyHunger, LVEJO has been able to construct 20 raised beds and a hoop house to grow food in lower temperatures, along with other vital urban farming infrastructure. The leadership committee’s volunteers lent their skills and expertise to better organize the volunteers and guide budget decisions. By engaging local youth and volunteers in community meetings, the team has developed guidelines for community participation. The master gardener, Fermin Meza, local youth and20 organic farmers have also pitched in shape the program’s direction.

Part of LVEJO’s tremendous support system comes from their youth advocacy program, which asks Chicago youth volunteers to spread the message of LVEJO to the community through local educational summits, protests/marches, workshops, and more. LVEJO Youth Leader Carolina Gil stated for the Lawndale News, “”We always heard if you put your mind to something, you can make a difference, but now, we know exactly what that means, and what steps we must take to achieve it.” Gil along with her Little Village counterparts are looking forward to their upcoming campaigns on the forefront of Chicago activism: fighting metro-fare increase, establishing community gardens around the city, and fighting air pollution policy abuses in disadvantaged areas.

little village environmental justice organization

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By Alison Cohen, WhyHunger’s Senior Director of Programs, and Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, WhyHunger’s Outreach and Partnerships Manager for the Global Movements Program. This post first appeared on EcoWatch.

 The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded this evening in Des Moines, Iowa. The event will be streamed live at www.foodsovereigntyprize.org/live at 8:00pm EDT.

world food prize

Norman Borlaug, often referred to as the father of the Green Revolution, called for a World Food Prize to be established just after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. His intention was to lift up, more frequently than the venerable Nobel committee could, those who have devoted their careers to alleviating global hunger and therefore contributing to a more peaceful world.

Indeed, hunger is often cited as one of the root causes of conflict and war. Calling attention to hunger—and its constant companion poverty—as inextricably linked to peace does certainly warrant a prize that continually puts these issues in the spotlight. The tragedy of the World Food Prize is that since 1987, when the prize was first awarded, the laureates—with a very few exceptions—have been primarily scientists that have advanced food as a commodity and not as a basic human right. This week the World Food Prize is once again being awarded to a plant scientist, Dr. Rajaya Sajaram, for his development of numerous prodigious wheat varieties that have been spread around the world to the benefit of “small and large-scale farmers.”

Yet, privileging food as a commodity to be bought and sold on the exchange floors of Chicago and New York has led to considerable damage to the natural environment and to our health. Not to mention that world hunger has reached the staggeringly high estimate of nearly one billion people, with more spikes than declines in the past few decades, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Production agriculture is the source of at least 14 percent of green­house gas emissions, depends on unsustainable fossil fuels and is the consumer of 70 percent of the world’s an­nual freshwater supply. Climate change is in part a direct result of this profit-driven recipe for efficiency and scale in agricultural production. And, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, no longer able to control what he has summoned by his spells, climate change is making our Earth inhospitable to food production through an increasing prevalence of drought followed by monsoons. And what is the response historically to a dwindling access to natural resources among rural communities in particular? Hunger and conflict.

Continue reading on EcoWatch.

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national farm to school networkA new publication from the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) was recently released, written with contributions from WhyHunger’s Brooke Smith, Co-Leader of the Grassroots Action Network, and WhyHunger partners including the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI), Alma Maquitico and Edwin Marty. Intended to be used as a guide to develop and standardize farm to school program evaluations across the country, the publication, “Evaluation for Transformation: A Cross-Sectoral Evaluation Framework for Farm to School,” provides a theoretical and practical framework accessible by policymakers, teachers, funders, researchers and program staff. Brooke and partners were invited by the publication’s team to contribute a food justice lens, an opportunity to enhance the core message of long-term systemic change within the academic language and research processes that often marginalizes or leaves out grassroots voices.

“We need a paradigm shift toward justice being a natural part of the research and evaluation conversation,” Brooke says. “The ‘norm’ is a often a dominant-culture, top-down methodology, which leaves out the communities that will be impacted by these projects. The people this research is ‘serving’ should at the very least be on the team that determines how to evaluate the changes in their own community.” The final collaboration incorporates a food justice lens in the curricula for farm to school programs, recognizes community-based research methodology such as storytelling as valid, and addresses systemic issues like ensuring fair wages and equitable treatment of food service workers and farmworkers.

Anecdotal and qualitative evidence, like storytelling, are rarely included in academic frameworks, and this document suggests that story collection should be done to engage a more relevant spectrum of audiences. Quantitative evidence is a vital determinant of change, but isn’t traditionally used as a stand-alone tool to mobilize communities and build movements; qualitative tools are needed to balance out the hard data. Both are needed because together they form a truer, more complete understanding of reality in our communities and help point the way to solutions. This new farm to school framework begins to represent this perspective.

“We’re proud to be engaged in the process,” Brooke says, “and we’re excited to see more interest in these qualitative research strategies supporting long-term change.”

 

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The Food Sovereignty Prize honors grassroots leaders that are fighting for the right to food and dignity for all people who work and participate in food systems. The prize was first awarded as an alternative to the World Food Prize founded by “the father of the Green Revolution,” the late Norman Borlaug, and is presented by the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance.

This year’s prize will be awarded to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) of Palestine, based in Gaza and the West Bank, and Community to Community Development/Comunidad a Comunidad (C2C) of Bellingham, Washington. The awards ceremony will take place in Des Moines, IA at the Iowa Historical Building on October 15 at 7:00pm CDT. To register, visit the Food Sovereignty Prize registration page.

Can’t make it to Iowa next week? Join us for a livestream of the event by heading to www.foodsovereigntyprize.org/live.

food sovereignty prize

 


WhyHunger believes in food sovereignty and that all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. WhyHunger speaks for itself on all issues regardless of its affiliation with any group or alliance, especially those that align themselves with a particular political cause. WhyHunger regards political situations in the Middle East, specifically concerning Israel and Palestine, as being particularly complex and we reject any portrayal that simplifies it by vilifying one group over another or that uses language or video depictions that politicizes or propagandizes the issue of food sovereignty. WhyHunger advocates for non-violence and delivers a message of peace and the right of all people to nutritious food. We stand in solidarity with community efforts that embody this approach in wholly non-violent ways.

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