Once upon a time summer was a “slow” season work-wise, when workplace activities gave way to family vacations and summer school schedules. It was a time when managers and administrators would clear desks of paperwork, and plans for new programs and year-end fund appeals could be formulated if not at leisure, at least in the warmth of a summer sun.
This year no one is taking anything “at leisure.”
For many CFJC members it’s a time of survival and learning to do more with less. And in Oakland, it has been no different for Coalition staff. But we also chose to see this challenge as an opportunity.
As a result, over the course of the past two months a cadre of volunteer CFJC staff and interns has completed the process of switching fiscal sponsorship from the Ecology Center to the Public Health Institute (PHI).
Since 2008, the Ecology Center has nurtured and supported CFJC when it moved from the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) in Los Angeles to the bay area. Today the Center remains an important Coalition partner, and member of the CFJC Steering Committee. But PHI fiscal sponsorship means the Coalition is now on a much more secure footing with access to the resources of a major NGO, including accounting and administration and human resource services.
Of special interest to all Coalition members, CFJC staff is now in a position to fulfill a critical role identified when I was hired fourteen months ago—joint fundraising with Coalition members.
We believe any successful coalition model requires leveraging resources. Now, with access to a full service development department, CFJC can approach Coalition members to develop joint programming projects with the means to solicit funding.
It is an exciting development, and a major reason for the switch in fiscal sponsorship. I would encourage CFJC members not to wait, but to reach out to staff with program ideas, or with any questions about what the change in fiscal sponsorship means for the Coalition.
In other really big summer news, by now most readers of this message probably know that the Community Food Security Coalition is undergoing a change in staff leadership.
Since CFJC is co-hosting along with Food First the CFSC 15th Annual Food Justice Conference in Oakland November 4-8, 2011, this news was of special interest.
Again, we see this challenge as yet one more opportunity. Accordingly, the Local Host Committee—comprised of more than 40 organizations and individuals—has stepped up organizing activities to make sure the conference fulfills its promise to mark a milestone in the food system movement. Stay tuned for developments on how bay area and California residents are shaping the future of food justice, by honoring its roots and celebrating the work farm and food workers, young people, and communities across the country, and around the world.
For example, CFJC staff are working with David Hilliard, PhD, sorting through mounds of historical materials to document the story of how the Black Panther Party launched a survival program in Oakland more than forty years ago that provided free breakfasts for children and health services for community residents.
If they could do so, why can’t we?
If you are reading this, there is no doubt in my mind that together, we are in the business of changing the world.
Yes, it has been an eventful summer and it is not over yet. It seems the presidential election, though more than a year away, is heating up with rhetoric about what ails the country and increasingly small minded solutions. Then there is the gang of twelve, the bi-partisan/bi-cameral federal committee charged with making a trillion(s) dollars of further budget cuts by November 23, 2011.
It is most definitely time we tell them to stop. I cannot speak for what will come out of the November conference in Oakland, because that is not the way a coalition works, nor is it how CFJC operates. But I can tell you what I believe, and what I will push for with every fiber in my being:
- The U.S. Supreme Court and presidential candidates notwithstanding, Corporations are not people.
- It does take a village to raise a child.
- The purpose of Food is to nourish people; food is not a commodity to increase corporate wealth.
- The food system is broken; it is our job to fix it.
- It is time for a call to action.
CFJC is comprised of groups from around the state and increasingly across the country who are in the business of changing the status quo—who are working to fix the elements of a broken food system. Because of the economy, of necessity, coalition and collaboration activities are on the rise, and the new CFJC/PHI fiscal sponsorship model provides a means to more effectively do so.
But I don’t believe that organizations alone, no matter how well organized and funded, are going to make the kind of fundamental difference in this confrontation between ideologies. As a lead up to the November conference, let each of us take the opportunity to revisit our roots, and the roots of our food movement. Let us revisit community, you know, that place from which each of us comes. Then perhaps we will remember that it is from that place we get our greatest strength. And it is there that we will find the allies and support to effectively challenge the food system.
CFJC is looking for support to sponsor “kitchen table talks” in the bay area in the next couple of months before the conference. The methodology is simple. Invest a few dollars in food for a community gathering in bay area homes to discuss food and any related issue. The goal is to hear from community members what concerns, what solutions, how they want to see their world change—what call to action resonates most with them.
I would encourage you to hold your own kitchen table talk in your community. And then reach out to less engaged communities to learn from them.
There is a growing swell of dis-ease and unrest across the state and across the country. An increasing number of people are fed up with the posturing and rhetoric we hear from our leaders. We need new leaders, and not just on the national level. Those of us in a position to lead—the time to step up is now.
I for one look forward to working with you along the way.
Y. Armando Nieto
California Food and Justice Coalition