Food Solutions New England (FSNE) is an initiative among the six New England states to build capacity to produce at least 50 percent of clean, fair, just, and accessible food for all New Englanders by 2060. The new publication A New England Food Vision details this goal.
I was extremely excited to attend the recent fourth annual New England Food Summit in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to connect with different sustainable food advocates from around the region. This was the first year of the Young Leaders delegation. It was an honor to serve as a young voice in this group of professionals. The Young Leaders delegation came from different backgrounds. Some are coordinators of school gardens, some are young farmers, some are Americorps volunteers, some work for grant agencies and more. I participated having just graduated from UNH, where I served as the Student Ambassador to the UNH Sustainability Institute’s Food Systems Task Force.
The conference was extremely stimulating, with visionaries steering the energized crowd toward our shared goals. Founding Director of the UNH Sustainability Institute, Dr. Tom Kelly, is on the Core Team of the FSNE initiative. He spoke many times, offering inspiration and direction. One of my favorite things he said was a quote from the poet Kate Tempest: “The new paradigm begins as soon as you’re ready to perceive it!” And, “Every minute is the minute to begin it!” His words motivated the delegates to take the 2060 goal seriously and strategically move toward the future.
This year’s conference focused on race issues in a sustainable food system. We discussed issues around food access, food justice, cultural appropriation, stereotypes, and labor rights. Advocates at this conference were very open and frank about reality. Citizens of the United States must realize that the foundation of the systems we are part of are built on inequality.
One of the best conversations I has was with Dr. Kenneth Payne, an incredible man who opened my mind to the political dynamics of the New Deal and its influence of the Jim Crow south. He said that our society today is still operating off of programs started in the New Deal era, and they are inherently racist and inequitable. He recommended the book Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson to learn more.
The community of active advocates for a sustainable food system gives me hope for the future. They are some of the most inspiring and passionate people I have had the pleasure to work with. There is always more to learn while studying the food system—the potential to change the world through food is limitless.
Curtis Ogden of the Interaction Institute for Social Change quoted Maya Angelou in his closing remarks at the Summit. “Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings.” There is much hope for a sustainable food system in the near future!
NOTE: Here’s a link to a related story all about Annie: http://extension.unh.edu/articles/Annie-Gets-It-Done