Brooke Smith, Director of WhyHunger’s Grassroots Action Network, is on the road this week in the Mississippi Delta, visiting our partner, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI). Over the last several years, WhyHunger has supported development of the DFFI network and programming. Brooke sent us photos to show off the exciting projects they’re working on this spring!
Mound Bayou school gardens
The Mound Bayou school district is participating in the first Delta Farm to School project with the support of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative. This summer, DFFI will partner with Teach for America interns and Delta teachers to develop the first comprehensive Mississippi-focused school garden curriculum, and align it with the new statewide core curriculum guidelines. By the time the school bell rings next fall, Delta students will be growing fresh fruits and vegetables for their school cafeteria and learning critical math, history, reading and life skills each step of the way!
Dorothy Grady-Scarborough and WhyHunger's Brooke Smith
Dorothy is a mentor and champion for farmers and growers across the Delta. A nutrition advocate, school nurse, youth organizer, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative board member, and all-around community builder, Dorothy is currently converting an abandoned Head Start facility into a comprehensive community center. The five structures are being refurbished by student and community volunteers and include a fitness center; a weekly food pantry; a community kitchen; two greenhouses for production of sprouts and greens; a garden planted with lettuce, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions; compost production; free range chickens; and – on the day I was there – some pretty happy kids playing a pro-level game of tag around the maze of truck-tires planted with bright marigolds and more produce!
Wasserman-Nieto is a lifelong resident of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, which sits next to two coal-fired power plants. The power plants have had grave effects on the health of the neighborhood–by one estimate, they have contributed to more than 3,000 deaths since they opened in 1924. When Wasserman-Nieto’s child was diagnosed with asthma as an infant, she knew she had to do something.
To mobilize her community into action, Wasserman-Nieto says she went “door-to-door with [her] child, talking with [neighbors'] families, talking to their parents, hearing their stories about what they went through, and how they had to miss work because they were having to stay home with their children. Taking those stories and building consciousness in our community was really key to this campaign.” Check out the video for the outcome of Little Village’s long campaign against the power plants, and their plans moving forward.
We congratulate Kimberly Wasserman-Nieto on winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, and we’re looking forward to honoring LVEJO at the 2013 Annual WhyHunger-Chapin Awards Dinner on June 3 in New York City.
“Greater successes are achieved when the top and bottom realize their role in the movement and work in cooperation, and partnership, rather than in isolation. …[C]hange happens not from the top down, or only from the bottom up, but when the top and bottom work side-by-side to achieve social change.” –from the Facilitating Change in the Food Justice Movement study
Facilitating Change in the Food Justice Movement
In our work for food justice, we know that we face many challenges — lack of food access, so-called “food deserts,” skyrocketing rates of obesity and diet-related diseases, to name just a few. And we know that many of these problems hit low-income communities and communities of color the hardest. Too often, communities hardest hit by the impacts of the unhealthy food system aren’t seen as also having the solutions to the challenges they face–when the reality is that the most lasting and sustainable solutions are those that come from the ground up.
The paper examines the roles of community-based organizations, non-profits and funders in facilitating real change, and analyzes the strategies and theories of change of SJLI and PG as organizations successfully working with residents to address diet-related health disparities. The report concludes with strong recommendations for food justice and community health work to start from within the community, driven by community needs and local leaders with support–rather than direction–from external organizations and funders.
Last week, following the CIW’s March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance held its second Assembly in nearby Tampa. The Alliance, of which WhyHunger is a founding member, works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. In practice, that means building relationships and fostering solidarity among grassroots organizations and allies working for justice across the food system, including rural farmers, fishers, farm and food workers, urban growers, indigenous networks and many others. The Assembly was held in Florida so that members could turn words into action and march in support of CIW.
After the march, about fifty food justice leaders spent two days in challenging and inspiring conversations about uprooting racism, the experiences that have shaped us, historical trauma, what it means to be an ally, how to support food sovereignty in our communities and the specific work we commit to do together in the coming year.