On July 27th, the Community Food and Justice Coalition launches our biggest summer fund appeal to date. $131k in 31 Days: Support CFJC’s Transition! to address Armando’s health concerns.
CFJC has come a long way since our founding in 2003. Y. Armando Nieto came to CFJC in 2010 to take the coalition “to the next level.” Armando believed in the mission of CFJC, to support and build a thriving food justice movement based in the Bay Area that can reach every corner of the country, and he was in it for the long haul. Under Armando’s direction, CFJC has worked tirelessly for years, and made great strides in supporting the local, and even the national food justice movement get more organized.
When Armando Nieto walks into the room, you know that you’re in for an exciting conversation. His presence is powerful, his voice is strong, and his vision is clear. After a long career of fighting for change in environmental justice, climate justice, and social justice, Armando became Executive Director of the Community Food and Justice Coalition in 2010.From his decades of experience in community organizing, he had identified a problem in activism: support for even the most important and inspiring projects eventually disappears, as funding evaporates, or issues come up in activists’ lives, or public interest shifts to the next popular issue. “I found that certain issues held people’s attention for “x” amount of time; but the issue of food, that holds people’s attention 24/7. That’s why I came to work in the food justice movement.”
In 2011, CFJC co-hosted the Community Food Security Coalition’s largest Food Justice Conference, here in Oakland. The event featured David Hilliard, former Chief of Staff of the Black Panther party. Mr. Hilliard reminded attendees that young people started the free breakfast program that became Head Start, and he sowed the seeds for a 2012 People’s Food Justice Summit, also held in Oakland. Armando calls the 2013 People’s Food Justice Summit “a labor of love,” as it was successful without any foundation or corporate sponsorship.
For more than four years, CFJC has facilitated the weekly GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) phone meetings, which also developed from the 2011 Food Justice Conference in Oakland. The meetings are anchored in Washington, D.C., and consist of groups, policy advocates, and individual activists from across the country, who keep an eye on Congress and help to ensure equity in food policy and the food system.There has never been anything like the process in the food justice movement, and Armando insists it can be a template for engaging communities and activists in a myriad of issues.
CFJC also currently manages Growing Equity from the Ground Up. An Oakland-based urban farming and food system leadership development program that will train local, low income people and people of color to take leadership positions in Oakland’s food justice movement. The apprentices are cross-trained in the knowledge and skills needed to make sustainable, healthy food production the foundation for strategic and comprehensive interventions that address the multiple interconnected economic, employment, educational, environmental, health, and nutritional challenges facing urban communities.
“After five years it has become clear that we’re always ahead of the curve,” Armando says. “We do the kind of capacity building that helps grassroots groups deal with a system that is set up to benefit the richest people in the world. But more and more, in D.C. and communities across the country, CFJC is respected for the work that we do. We’ve found the fulcrum needed to shift the dominant paradigm. And more and more community groups are beginning to see what is needed for them to take a leadership role in a values based society.”
At the same time, over the past few years Armando has suffered a series of health issues that until the past few months went undiagnosed. He pushed through them, and continued, with amazing dedication, to run CFJC. However, Armando has now been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and even he has accepted that he must take time away from CFJC to heal. Therefore, I have stepped up to serve as Program Coordinator to help ensure CFJC’s work continues. I have also decided to attend the University of San Francisco’s Master of Public Affairs program starting this fall to further develop myself as a leader and build CFJC’s capacity to continue to be a leader in the food justice movement.
Although Armando plans to return to CFJC, it will take a year for his medications and regimen to “refurbish” his heart. And it is clear that when he does return, his role will have to change. As we go through this difficult transition period at CFJC, we are determined to keep up the work Armando and CFJC staff have led. Armando isn’t letting his heart failure stop him. And staff won’t let anything stop us, either.
Armando still manages to find enough energy to check in with staff, and to explain to our volunteer interns, “What’s happening with me is a microcosm of what happens in communities. Just because I got sick doesn’t mean that CFJC is going to stop working. You don’t give up on community because someone gets sick or because someone went away to college. You don’t give up when your money runs out. We have to maintain the same level of services that we were doing, that activists and communities expect of us. What we have to do is continue to provide as we morph into a new kind of organization and coalition, and not betray the trust that community has in us—in CFJC.”
But let’s be clear. The reality is that while Armando is out and although staff is passionate and energized for this transition, we cannot keep up our work without funding. We need the help of individuals, groups, and our community to get us through this difficult and challenging time. We believe it begins with you.
A contribution from you, no matter how small, will support our mission to make food justice the foundation of transformation in Bay Area communities, with a rippling effect across the country.
Here are concrete examples of what it costs to provide CFJC services, and how your contributions continue the work:
$50-250 stipends enable community members to participate in the public policy arena
$150 pays for monthly CFJC Public Policy Calls
$250 underwrites monthly internet connectivity
$250 underwrites a CFJC workshop
$350 underwrites monthly telephone service for CFJC activities
$500 funds a summer intern
$1,250 pays CFJC office rent for one month
$2,500 underwrites CFJC’s successful social media campaigns
$5,000 keeps monthly e-newsletter published year round
$25,000 in travel funds connects CFJC to D.C., and communities across the state and country
$35,000 funds annual CBPR/PE evaluation and related report activities
$75,000 average salary and benefits compensates a CFJC staff member working through the transition period
$100,000 is needed for a planning process to vision and implement the new CFJC on Armando’s return to work
And then, of course, each program and project focus area has a separate budget.
Please contribute to our $131k in 31 Days: Support CFJC’s Transition! campaign now to help build upon the work Armando started with with Christina Spach, Hai Vo, Erin Middleton, Lotta Chan, Jessy Gill and the CFJC Steering Committee.
All the best.