The Farm Bill. Urban agriculture. Local Food. Food politics. Food access. Food justice. School food. All this and more were the focus of Day 1 of the Just Food 2012 Conference held February 24 and 25 in Manhattan. Just Food – if you don’t know – is the non-profit that makes local, fresh food accessible to all New Yorkers through community gardens, CSAs, farmers markets, pantry programs, and forging relationships that foster its goals in the community.
I attended Day 1 and was happy not only to see so many Natural Gourmet students and graduates, but also to meet so many like-minded people from our local food community.
The day kicked off with remarks from Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who detailed the progress New York has made in the arena of healthy food access. But I knew things were going to get interesting when Tanya Fields, Executive Director of The BLK ProjeK, informed the crowd that under-served neighborhoods didn’t need well-meaning white liberals to teach them what to eat. Then Garret Oliver, the Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery followed up with an apt comparison of the processed and simulated foods we eat to life in The Matrix. George Weld, founder of Egg Restaurant & Parish Hall Restaurant, spoke last but eloquently about the unacknowledged nobility of preparing food for a living.
Almost 50 break-out sessions and a job fair rounded out Day 1. I attended a memorable and riveting talk by Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating. Tracie wrote her book after going undercover to work as a migrant farm laborer, a waitress at Appleby’s, and an employee at Walmart. The challenge she set herself was to live and eat off her below-subsistence wages. The thrust of her presentation and argument was that we could pay living wages to food workers and still have affordable food.
I can’t attend tomorrow (drat!), but it looks like a day devoted to sessions about farming, CSAs, and cooking. I’m counting on NGI students and grads to keep us informed.