By Lauren Anderson, CFJC Food Policy Research Intern
I left this country disheartened and returned the same way. When I left Florida in 2009, I was tired of living in a state governed by George W’s little brother during the Bush administration. Tired of watching our development-driven economy forsake the environment for suburban sprawl, only to crash magnificently when the real estate bubble burst. Growing up there I learned two things: the power of corporate money and that I wanted to go very far away.
In my three years living in Canada I distanced myself from my Floridian roots, taking it as a compliment when people mistook me as an Ontarian. “You’re much quieter than an American,” they said. “You’re much less crazy too”. From Montreal I kept a wary eye on US politics, never finding much to entice me back. My priorities of ecological agriculture, equality, and the environment are petty issues for party politics when the opposition, Big Agriculture, is backed by the corporate monoliths of Cargill and Monsanto.
I returned to the States this summer not knowing what to expect. Well, to be truthful, I didn’t expect much in the way of tangible progress towards creating a responsible food system. I joined the California Food and Justice Coalition as a policy research intern two months ago to work on the Farm Bill, which I believed was the most logical avenue for systemic change.
During my time at CFJC I saw the work of commodity crop lobbyists remove conservation requirements for large producers. I saw our congress members propose a $16 billion cut to SNAP in the name of sequestration. I saw Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s billionaire supporters buy a $31 million dollar recall for the equivalent of pocket change. I was expecting these things. I expect these things.
What I didn’t expect to discover in the small upstairs office of a converted house in north Oakland was a revolution– but that’s exactly what I found. My work at CFJC has exposed me to the growing and very present Food Justice movement. Borne out of community gardens in public parks, parents fighting for healthy school lunches, mothers teaching SNAP education to their communities, and farmers markets accepting EBT cards, something powerful is certainly growing in the East Bay.
I am leaving CFJC with a lot more than I came here with. I’ve strengthened my network, my research skills and my understanding of justice and equity in the food system. However, foremost, I would like to thank the wonderful, beautiful staff of California Food and Justice Coalition for instilling in me the hope for change.