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What Is The Growing Discussion About Food?

by James Bartoli
San Diego, California

Published along with "What Is A People’s Assembly?" by Carlos Huerta in San Ysidro, the following article by James Bartoli focuses on the San Diego experience with a growing movement in the U.S. and around the world -- the growing discussion about food.

Over the past few months, people concerned with food justice and other members of the local community have been talking with each other about our mounting concerns with the industrial food system, increasing food insecurity, and growing inequalities in access to healthy and nutritious food. Rather than creating a new group or organization, The Growing Discussion About Food (GDAF) seeks to germinate a new bloom of grassroots organizing by cultivating a more diverse dialogue about food justice, with both local and international vision, and a strengthened network for collective action. Through discussing our varied concerns about food using a bottom-up People’s Assembly process, we may decide together how to transform our local food system and build real democratic communities to take action while connecting and empowering motivated groups and individuals.

Why does everyone’s voice matter in “The Growing Discussion About Food”?

Everyone eats, and everyone has a stake in having access to healthy and nutritious food – a human right denied many people by today’s political economy. Through cultivating a larger and more diverse discussion about ‘food security’ and food justice in San Diego, outside the normal channels dominated by privileged interests, we may build bridges and increase the social capital we will need from a basis of unity to address the many different problems we experience around food.

By growing together, we may learn from each other and build mutual understanding and community. Recognizing the global scale of the conversation, learning from the experiences of others, and thinking and communicating outside the confines of national borders, we may cultivate healthier community-oriented values.

Where are we from, and where are we going?

We are people from all walks of life, and we live scattered throughout San Diego County – but we are citizens of the Earth. We come together through our mutual concern about food, the recognition that breaking bread with each other is valuable, and our desire to help make food justice and food sovereignty become a reality for all people, not just in San Diego County. To get there, we believe the answer must begin with us alone and through our collective action – not through corporate-led techno-fixes that further increase unemployment, and global and local inequality, nor through a broken political system that protects the profits and ‘property rights’ of transnational corporations ahead of the human rights of people.

How is ‘The Growing Discussion About Food’ different from dinner table conversation?

The Growing Discussion About Food is not just a potluck, it is more than stone soup, and it is bigger than our gardens. This discussion is perhaps the first step in developing collective plans before we put them into action. Through a People’s Assembly process, collective plans may be developed from the bottom-up, affording more space for the most vulnerable voices and establishing a broader and more solid foundation for future action. Additionally, the People’s Assembly process is a global phenomenon and it asserts its own legitimacy in embodying self-determination. The GDAF highlights the culture in agriculture by focusing on how re-visioning the relationship between our food consumption and food production can also mean reconnecting human relationships around food on local and global scales that have been disconnected in the marketplace. Through working to increase local farm-to-table solutions, we can simultaneously address food inequality and the job crisis while reducing dependency on global agribusiness. By revealing the global forces behind local problems, we may also build solidarities across borders and strengthen healthy exchange networks. In focusing on connecting real human problems with effective solutions, we can ground practice through foregrounding justice.

What can we use ‘The Growing Discussion About Food’ to accomplish?

The only limit is our imagination. First, we must get to know each other, learn from each other, and understand our mutual and particular concerns. From our local roots, we must seek out and offer global connections and solidarity. Then, through coming together in our neighborhoods in traditional barn-raisings, let us reconnect and build the healthier social and economic relations we find necessary for a sustainable local food system, a greener San Diego, and a safer planet.

Published in In Motion Magazine - February 10, 2013.

This article was previously published in Volume 1, #1 of the newsletter of the Growing Discussion About Food.