Lessons Learned, Lessons Applied, Taking Action for Equity

18 February 2014


Executive Director Column 2/18/14

It is only February, and it is beginning to look like this will be a defining year in the story of our country.

Check the box:
Farm Bill passed
Organize for Farm Bill implementation
2014 Workplan drafted
Fight Back against the unrelenting war on our families and communities
Stand with the President’s Administration and Congressional leaders where we can on:

  • Health Care
  • Climate Change
  • Voting Rights
  • Immigration
  • Race, Power and Privilege

To be sure, the President’s efforts on the above list do not rise to a level that can help our communities either immediately or for the long term. That is our job—collectively, yours and my responsibility.

President Obama was elected—twice—representing himself and his administration as moderate, at best. I for one wish we would elect as president a Senator Bernie Sanders, or a Senator Elizabeth Warren. Remember, before he was president, this President was Senator Barak Obama and hailed as a constitutional scholar.

One perspective on his stint as a community organizer is revealing, and may support my assertion that while his presence in the White House provides an opening, for any change of substance to occur we—each of us—have to step up and pressure our electeds, who are also pressured by hundreds of millions of dollars from an entrenched power system bent on despoiling our land, impoverishing our families, and destroying our economy, all wrapped up in the red-white-and-blue of the American flag.

2014 seems to be the year each thinking person cannot ignore the call to participate daily in the iconic struggle to reclaim our country from Citizens United, where money equals free speech, where moguls purchase elections, where Governors, Senators, and Members of Congress lie to us at the bidding of big money, big oil, big financial institutions, and big agriculture.

Over the past three years, requests for CFJC’s participation at conferences, on panels and as speakers has increased. This month, in addition to helping facilitate the GOAT Convening in D.C., I will be heading for Detroit to work with a national partnership addressing the nexus of climate change, environmental justice, climate justice, public health, philanthropy and the environmental movement.

Before then, I participate on a panel in Marin at an inter-faith conference, presenting on food justice.

And one thing that has remained constant over the years of CFJC’s participation in these activities is the question always raised, “what can I do?” to be part of the solution, to be part of the growing movement to take back our food system, our economy and our country.

To which I have three quick responses:

  • Grow something, even if it is just mint leaves outside/under a spigot. Be part of the continuum that will become our re-invented food chain.
  • Host a dinner to talk about food. Breaking bread together is a tradition as old as mankind, and something lost to a country weaned on John Wayne’s bootstraps and Ronald Reagan’s fantasies. Find out what your neighbors, your friends, your family or just new acquaintances are thinking. You will likely be surprised.
  • Knock on a neighbor’s door. You may be surprised to learn that a growing number of families are closer than one pay check to poverty, or worse.

If you are feeling a growing sense of urgency, and a dis-ease with the status quo, then you are not alone.

Another question we get all the time is, “if CFJC is a food justice organization, then why do you weigh in and work on so many different issues?” To which the answer is, of course, because we must.

To paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, Jr.:

Good food policy is good food justice policy;
Good food justice policy is good economic policy;
Good economic policy is good public health policy;
Good public health policy is good environmental policy;
Good environmental policy is good climate change policy;
Good climate change policy is good immigration policy; and,
Good immigration policy is good climate justice policy.

We could increase the list, ad infinitum, but you get the idea.

Is there really any choice but to become more engaged in the work of all of our people?

Our electoral system is broken, because while good people continue to get elected to represent us, in the national arena especially, it really does look like an expanded version of a kindergarten playground.

Any parent, or aunt or uncle, or anyone who has cared for small children will understand the reference.

Picture a sandbox, which is a finite environment. In the sandbox are a plethora of toys. But imagine a small gang systematically hording all the toys, not because they want to play with the toys—there are far too many to play with by the small group—but rather just because they can horde them.

Now insert Congress for the sandbox, big everything for the small gang, and there you go.

We have to do better. We can do better.

You will have many opportunities to stand and be counted.

I gave you three suggestions for food justice activism, above. Now think on your own, and do your own research instead of relying on the talking heads on the TV box. The list of what you need to educate yourself on is daunting:

  • The Affordable Care Act
  • Fracking
  • Keystone XL Pipeline
  • Immigration Policy
  • Farm Bill Implementation
  • Upcoming Elections

And so on.

Remember, we now live in a culture where it is permissible for our Members of Congress to lie in support of their corporate interests. Here’s one example:

In Tennessee this week auto workers voted down a plan to unionize, despite support of Volkswagen, the plant operator, for a union shop. Wide spread reports indicate a string of well publicized mis-truths from the governor as well as U.S. Senator Bob Corker about how VW did NOT want a union, and innuendos that a Republican State Legislature would withdraw incentives to VW if the workers voted to unionize. This despite denials by VW.

To be clear, union busting activities are not new in the South, or anywhere else in the country. And maybe even mis-statements (if not outright lies) on the part of high level electeds are not new.

What is new is the light that modern technology—the internet, YouTube, etc.—is able to share widely.

It has therefore become a civic duty to question the veracity of our elected officials, and none of us are exempt from that duty. Unless you do actually view yourself an island within the sea of humanity, with no link to the rest of us, no responsibility for the health and well being of our community.

I know that if you are reading this newsletter, you believe otherwise.

And it is on that shared belief and value, our shared values, that I call on you to make 2014 the year you insist on making your own voice heard. Above the noise of the television machine; above the millions that the Koch brothers are spending to buy elections across the country.

I’ll repeat what I wrote last month, that “To not do so is to stand on the wrong side of history.”

I’ve asked CFJC staff to begin to represent and broadcast the activities which they—and you—have completed over the course of the past three years, and to build on those successes the next iteration of a coalition helping to lead efforts to create or re-create a society of which we can all be proud.

With healthy food access for all.

Food justice and equity in our food system.

Where we don’t take food stamps from the neediest among us.

Where corporations are NOT people.

Where our shared values are reflected in our leaders, public policy, and our economic system.

We are with you in spirit, and on the front lines.

From all of us at CFJC, the Steering Committee, staff and interns, and the many volunteers, thank you.

Now, please take a moment now and make a donation to CFJC, because as above, we will continue to work on your behalf, and we need your financial support.


Blessings and well wishes,


Armando's Signature




Y. Armando Nieto


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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

If you believe in these principles JOIN CFJC NOW.

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