What could be more riveting than reading about a conference that you probably didn’t attend? Listening to Kenny G while stuck in an elevator? Watching paint peel from the wall? Reading the twitter feed from the conference? Yes, we get it that conference roundups are extremely boring, but please just take your medicine and read our Our Top 12 Amazing Moments from the 2011 Community Food Security Coalition Conference:
1. When the activist/author Raj Patel reminded the attendees that the U.S. New Deal was a compromise that came about because radicals, socialists, and anarchists were making uncompromising demands in the streets, much like Occupy Wall Street is doing now. As he said this, the PowerPoint presentation was interrupted by the message “Threat Detected” from his anti-virus software.
2. Marching with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers with 200+ people to Trader Joe’s (which still refuses to sign the Fair Food agreement) and singing to the tune of Freddie Scott’s song “Hey Trader Joe, you’ve got what I need, so just pay a penny more (yeah just pay a penny more).”
4. The folks from LiveReal and Real Food Challenge making the conference, well, a whole lot more real at their storytelling and organizing workshop. After hearing more abstract speeches than we care to count in some other sessions, these young leaders captivated us with emotional stories of struggle and hope. And they opened up the space for the rest of us to do the same.
5. Hearing about the project to rebuild the New Deal coalition of rural farmers and urban workers from Food Democracy Now, George Naylor of the National Family Farm Coalition, Navina Khanna of LiveReal, and the Family Farm Defenders (the farmers that drove the tractors to support union workers in Wisconsin!). This workshop underscored the importance of the Farm Bill, not only for farmers, but workers. Follow what’s going on by going to the Food Democracy Now website.
6. Washing dishes at Occupy Oakland.
7. Listening to our fellow member of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the amazing Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). ROC was founded by our union several months after 9/11 to continue UNITE HERE‘s efforts to support our members and their families who worked at Windows of the World. Saru has turned ROC into so much more – an independent voice for restaurant workers in 10 cities.
8. Learning about social media from Naomi Starkman of Civil Eats and Haven Bourque of HavenBMedia (if you haven’t noticed, we’re learning it on the fly), and experiencing the adrenalin rush of having some of our stuff tweeted by food writers we really respect like the Ethicurian and Hannah Wallace. Yes, we are gratuitously complimenting them so they continue to do so.
9. Amazed to learn from our friends at the Real Food Challenge that their beautiful doodles were actually a form of note taking. We are going to try and learn the method and throw away our yellow legal pads.
10. Inspired by the courage of the conference organizers to hold a plenary session about Walmart and corporate responsibility at the same time the company is throwing buckets of money at food groups. Even more inspired by the Walmart workers who spoke at the event
11. The public health world sometimes drives us crazy (like ignoring the structural causes of health and food insecurity), but Larry Cohen of the Prevention Institute was dynamite. Check out his group’s video We’re Not Buying It.
SFA is “dedicated to working with farmworkers for change but we will not act on their behalf, instead taking our lead from the workers themselves. Farmworkers’ daily experience of working in sweatshop conditions in the fields puts them in the best position to build movements to change those conditions—and the larger power imbalances they stem from. In turn, we take responsibility for organizing our communities and colleagues to understand—and act on—our role in this movement.”
We think all organizations advocating for others can learn from this philosophy, and at the next conference we hope attendees get to hear a whole lot less from us and a whole lot more from food workers directly.
We truly want to thank the staff, board and host committee of the Community Food Security Coalition for putting on a tremendous conference. Some of us at Real Food Real Jobs have been on the other side of putting on conferences, and we know how much hard work goes into making a successful event.
Now go read something interesting!