Food First

Food First: Daylighting the Underpinnings of Hunger

by Deborah Rich

Food First’s goal is to end the injustices that cause hunger. To that end, Food First researches and communicates about the social and economic underpinnings of hunger. “Food First is a think tank,” says Eric Holt-Gimenez the executive director of the Oakland-based international non-profit. “We produce information and analyses which help to inform social movements that are involved in changing food systems and which amplify the voices of the movement.”

Sometimes Food First’s research supports policy and food system decision-making. For example, Food First recently reviewed all the food policy councils that have been formed in the United States, taking a look at what worked and what didn’t work for the councils. But Food First’s research supports more than policy-making. “We inform people who change the food system,” says Holt-Gimenez. “Policy is one way of changing the system, but there are other ways, including by building alternatives and through direct action. We try to provide information that facilitates all these avenues of change-making.”

A 35-year-old organization, Food First is largely supported by over 7000 members who together represent a broad swath of the socio-economic spectrum. Donations range from $5.00 to $5,000, and foundation grants making up the balance of Food First’s funds. “We don’t take any government or corporate money,” says Holt-Gimenez. “Due to the direct support of our many members, we, unlike many think tanks, have intellectual freedom.”

Food First’s diverse constituency reflects the alignment of varied interests that Holt Gimenez sees as the greatest source of optimism about ending hunger. “What’s hopeful is that more and more organizations around the world are fighting back against strong corporate control of our food systems,” says Holt-Gimenez. “It’s a convergence of movements, a movement of movements. You have urban, rural, wealthy and poor trying to come together to advance food sovereignty, which is food democratization.”

Holt Gimenez also sees potential in the legitimacy crises that he believes large corporations and the government face: crises that create space for food system reform. “I hope that these social movements can come together quickly enough and powerfully enough to make the changes we need before our food systems are destroyed,” says Holt-Gimenez.

The responsibility for making food systems healthy engines of local economic growth lies with us as citizens, believes Holt-Gimenez. “Our biggest challenge is whether we can converge in all our diversity,” says Holt-Gimenez. “When we figure out how to do that, I think the food movement will be unstoppable.”

Contact info:

Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
398 60th Street,
Oakland, CA
94618 USA

Tel: 510-654-4400
Fax: 510-654-4551