On August 7, 2011, a group of 13 young Americans of many races embarked on Live Real‘s Food & Freedom Ride. They are traveling from Alabama and Mississippi, key points in the civil rights movement, through America’s heartland of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa, before ending in Detroit, a city that points to a new direction for agriculture. At a time when one in six Americans is going hungry and the newest generation of youth is the first with a shorter life expectancy than their parents – in large part because of food they eat – the Food & Freedom Ride will expose the inequalities of our food system and address food as a civil rights issue. Along the way, the riders are meeting with civil rights elders, youth organizers, many kinds of farmers, meat processing workers, and many others.
WhyHunger is supporting Live Real, the Real Food Fellows and the Food & Freedom Rides as part of our initiative to partner with youth activists who are raising their voices and leading the way for food justice. Siena Chrisman, Manager of Strategic Partnerships & Alliances, has been instrumental in the development of Live Real, and joined the Real Food Fellows on the Food and Freedom Ride for the last week. Siena has sent e-postcards from the past four days of the ride.
Day 5: Monsanto Headquarters – St. Louis, MO
Monsanto owns 90% of the corn seeds grown in the US, makes it illegal to save seed, and has led to the proliferation of genetically modified crops around the world. We stopped by their corporate headquarters for a small, peaceful ceremony to honor all the farmers who have lost their livelihoods due to Monsanto’s intimidation tactics.
About 90 seconds after we pulled up in front of the drive, a security car pulled up behind us, followed by two other security cars and two local city police cars. They asked us to move off the property, so we had our ceremony (complete with banner signed by all contributors to the Youth Food Bill of Rights drafted two weeks ago, more details here) on the shoulder of the highway, with the security guards looking on.
Day 6: Missouri River – June rains flood acres of fields
The Missouri River in Kansas and Missouri flooded in June, washing out thousands of acres of fields; many of which are still underwater. (The water to the right of the first line of the trees is the regular river. Everything else is flooded.)
Day 7: Lunch on the White Cloud Ioway Reservation, KS
Live Real member Brett Ramey hosted us on the White Cloud Ioway reservation in northeastern Kansas. We enjoyed lunch with members of the Ioway and other local tribes; several of the youth brought us to their tribal powwow grounds and sang for us.
We headed out of Kansas through Nebraska and Missouri to Ames, Iowa, where we stayed on the beautiful two-acre Onion Creek Farm, an oasis of diversified vegetable farming in the midst of miles of corn and soybean fields. We visited “Carrot King” Gary Guthrie at Growing Harmony Farm, who told us about pesticide drift getting on his fields from his neighbor’s crop spray. He and his wife also shared delicious homemade pie and ice cream.