Third Annual Food Sovereignty Prize: Food for the People and by the People

By Courtney Hendrix, Intern

The Third Annual Food Sovereignty Prize was awarded and celebrated at the
Marriot in downtown Oakland, as a part of the Community Food Security Coalition’s
15th annual conference. Brasil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) were the 2011
winners, with the Movimiento Campesino a Campesino, the South Central Farmers,
and the Grow BioIntensive Agricultural Centre of Kenya as the Food Sovereignty
Prize honorable mentions. Two changes to this year’s ceremony helped create a
community-oriented and interactive celebration in honor of those working toward
food sovereignty. First, the event was free and open to the public, and second, a fair
was added as part of the celebration. As someone new to the food sovereignty and
food justice movements, being a part of the Food Sovereignty Prize and Fair was an
enlightening and encouraging experience.

My main role was outreach to community food-related organizations to be
part of the Food Sovereignty Fair, where they shared their works and projects for
creating local and regional, sustainable, and fair food systems. About twenty
organizations participated in the fair; most of them based in the Bay Area, but
national and international organizations were in attendance as well. Organizations
were lined around the room showcasing information on topics ranging from
alternatives to pesticides, indigenous peoples’ rights, farm workers’ rights,
cooperative farming, California’s “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign, urban
agriculture, seed saving and growing your own food from seeds. Other
organizations had demonstrations such as, how to harvest homegrown lettuce, how
to make tea at home, and a bike blender that made fresh fruit smoothies. There
were also two interactive art projects; one was a painting of what food sovereignty
means to people, and the other, was a tree that was decorated with attendees’
offerings for food sovereignty. For several hours, the West Hall of the Oakland
Marriot Conference Center was transformed into a creative and interactive space,
bringing together those working for and those interested in, gaining back control of
our food systems.

During the awards ceremony, I learned about relationships between past and
present work of the food sovereignty movement, from local to worldwide efforts.
Most notably, demonstrating the influence the Black Panther Party for Self Defense
(BPPSD) has had, and continues to have, David Hilliard, co-founder of the BPPSD,
gave an opening presentation at the award ceremony and shared how they fought
for oppressed peoples’ rights by establishing free community programs in Oakland,
California. Among these programs were free breakfasts for children and a
community food pantry. As a way to promote social justice, the Black Panther Party
was fighting for food justice decades before the term was recognized. When the
MST received their award, Elias Araujo and Janaina Stronzake recognized the Black
Panthers’ work as an inspiration and the foundation of the movements to take back
control of our food systems. They honored David Hilliard, on behalf of the BPPSD,
by presenting him with their MST flag and by placing Elias Araujo’s hat on his head.
These simple actions transformed the energy in the room; people stood up and
began clapping, they were smiling, and some were crying. Despite our differences in
ages, ethnicities, cultures, priorities, geographic locations, etcetera, at that moment,
I felt like everyone in the room was united in the struggles of gaining food
sovereignty for all.

When thinking about the different issues involved in changing the food
system it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the problems because there are so
many. I learned at the Food Sovereignty Prize and Ceremony, however, that there
are also many people who believe that healthy, sustainable, and fair food is a human
right; and who devote their lives to this cause. Being in that room filled with people
who are so passionate about food, in one way or another, and seeing and hearing
the solutions that have been developed gave me hope for our future; because the
people at the Food Sovereignty Fair were only a piece of those who are out there
improving food systems around the world.

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