I recently attended an event promoting Eric Holt-Giménez’s new book (co-authored by Raj Patel), Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice. Eric is the executive director of Food First and a powerful advocate for transforming our broken food system. His presentation unpacked the causes of hunger worldwide and promoted a reinvestment in local food systems as both a just and effective solution.
Eric began by outlining the rise of the industrial food system, starting with how the Green Revolution of the 1960s displaced local food systems and imposed an industrial model of food production from the North to the Global South. With the rise of Structural Adjustment Programs in the 1980s and what he dubbed “Free trade mania” in the 1990s, local food systems worldwide have been compromised and abandoned. The results? Countries in the Global South used to produce $1 billion in food surplus. Today, those same countries have an $11 billion food deficit.
One of the more illuminating moments for me came when Eric described the process by which the UN published the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The biggest study of its kind ever conducted, the IAASTD was published in 2008 and was meant to put corporate agriculture at ease by proving that the industrial model, including widespread use of GMOs, can and does effectively feed the world. Instead, the study concluded that small-scale farmers and organic, agro-ecological methods are the way forward to solve the current food crisis and meet the needs of local communities.
Eric made a strong case for fighting poverty through rebuilding local food economies and he pointed to the food sovereignty movement as paving the way. Interestingly, he connected the fight for food sovereignty worldwide to local food justice efforts here in the United States and elsewhere. The explosion in CSAs, school gardens, urban farms in low-income communities – to name a few – is part and parcel of the effort to reclaim control over our global food system and intentionally participate in a more just and sustainable model.
I haven’t read his book yet, but if it’s anything like the talk he gave I’m sure it’ll inspire. You can find out more on the Food First website. And if you’re looking for ways to plug into food justice efforts in New York, check out the AJWS-AVODAH Partnership’s new initiative, the Brooklyn Bridge CSA!