Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hilde's take home lesson from this year's CFSC conference

Great things are bound to happen when you bring anti-hunger, social and economic justice, environmental, public health, and sustainable agriculture groups to the table. In fact, good will was flat out contagious this past week in Cherry Hill, NJ, at the 12th annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference: "Restoring our Urban and Rural Communities with Healthy Food."

The conference kicked off with an announcement from CFSC executive director Andy Fisher that at-risk funding for the USDA's Community Food Project Competitive Grants Program, the major funding source for community-based food and agriculture projects nationwide, had been secured! (Applause! Applause!) Kudos to Kathy Ozer with the National Family Farm Coalition and other food and farm advocates for their round-the-clock efforts to save this important program from budget cuts.

Four days worth of diverse workshops, roundtables and field trips later, I was left with much to be excited about (and altogether too much to report on in this blog!). Probably the greatest lesson I took away from the meeting, however, was our shared responsibility as citizens to fight for choices we believe in. All too often we're falsely cornered with Catch-22's, and asked to decide between two undesirable results: a $700 billion bailout at the expense of millions of taxpayers or economic ruin; contaminating our fields, water and air with toxic chemicals or widespread hunger. Yet, there are real, on-the-ground innovative solutions at work on farms and in communities across America that foster prosperity, cooperation, health and wealth. In our country's time of shaky economics and Wall Street woes, let's rally together and fight for choices that benefit prosperous family farmers and farmworkers, healthy consumers, thriving local economies, flourishing environments, and vibrant, culturally-rich communities!

Keynote speaker Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, showed a slide during his presentation on "Transforming the Food Crisis" that highlighted trade-offs to the $700 billion bailout plan: $700 billion bailout or lunch to feed every American child for 30 years; $700 billion bailout or enough money to end world hunger for the next 23 years. See how these options feel much better than those oppressive Catch 22's? Let's keep this list going! To add your own positive trade-offs, add your comment here. And check back in coming weeks to see how our list has grown!

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