You can check out some highlights of the conference on the Kellogg Foundation website here.
On May 23rd nearly 600 participants convened in a follow-up to last year’s small meeting of sixty people who developed a Food Policy Lifeline, prioritizing the needs of children and communities. It was an exercise in self-determination that resonated with the Kellogg Foundation, enough so that they used the lifeline as the basis of this year’s conference.
To be clear—in 2011 the sixty participants were challenged to develop the kind of food and food system policies that they would like to see, if the typical barriers and challenges—partisan politics, funding constraints, etc.—were absent.
The result was a Food Policy Lifeline predicated on the revolutionary idea that the main purpose of food is to nourish people, and not to enrich corporations.
In 2012 the participants were likewise challenged to think beyond this Farm Bill reauthorization process, whatever the Congressional outcomes.
If I had one criticism of the process—and I say this as one who helped with the convening process—it is that the multitude of workshops did not allow for a critical mass of people to gain consensus on next steps. Alternately, plenary sessions of 600 people proved likewise ungainly in crafting concrete next steps. Although, Navina Khanna, Anna Lappé, Paula Garcia, Norma Flore Lopez, Michael Dimock, Richard McCarthy, Kolu Zigby and I did our best to frame the conversation to challenge attendees in the spirit of 2011.
I was especially intrigued with a panel comprised of Ricardo Salvador with the Equity Caucus and Union of Concerned Scientists, Judith Bell representing the Convergence Partnership and PolicyLink, GOAT Coalition member Aisha Amuda with Community Food Security Coalition, AGree member Deborah Atwood, Ferd Hoefner from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Gabrielle Serra with the Public Health Institute and the Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition.
What intrigued me was the realization that with the exception of NSAC, I (and CFJC) was part of the senior Farm Bill and beyond policy coalition (Healthy Farms, Healthy People), and the newest (Equity Caucus). CFJC also, along with many other groups across the country, participates in weekly GOAT public policy calls coordinated by the Rural Coalition that is currently focused on the activities of Congress in developing a 2012 Farm Bill.
Surely the next indicated step is better communication and coordination between all the coalition efforts.
Finally, I wanted to mention what I consider the most important events inAsheville. And here I am speaking of the meetings-outside-the-scheduled meetings.
If we can all acknowledge how close we hold our particular piece of the policy agenda for those who trust in us, and have the courage to begin to share and strategize with one another for better food and food policy system outcomes, then we will truly be worthy of the trust placed in each of us privileged to do policy work.
For those who do not, or cannot be part of the policy (sausage) making process, I would ask that you in turn hold us accountable for the changes you demand.
I for one, look forward to hearing from you.
Y. Armando Nieto