A coalition of food activists

What do the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen and small-scale, sustainable farming have in common?

Food Day New Haven, the local, grassroots version of a national campaign started by the Center for Science and Public Interest, seeks to unite such different food issues into a common dialogue. Organized by Yale students Susannah Albert-Chandhok ’14, Connor Bell ’13, Tomoki Kimura ’12 and Katie Levandoski ’13, Food Day kicked off on Monday, Oct. 17 and will sponsor events through Friday, Oct. 28.

Though Food Day was originally conceived on the national level, it was designed to be adapted by members of different communities throughout the country, Levandoski, who interned with the CSPI over the summer, explained.

“We wanted this to be a grassroots movement and have organizers direct it towards the issues that are most prominent [in the place they live],” she said. “In New Haven, these [issues] are food deserts and hunger, which we’ve really focused on as organizers.”

The problem of food deserts in New Haven is one even Yalies can relate to — many of us bemoaned the inconvenience of the Shaw’s closing before Stop & Shop opened this year. But the organizers feel that one of Food Day’s goals should be to unite food activists in Yale and the broader New Haven community over a variety of issues, Bell explained.

“There has definitely been a rising food movement here [in New Haven] and people are very interested in local and sustainable foods — the Farmer’s Market, Edge of the Woods, the Elm City Market,” Albert-Chandhok said. “We want to combine these interests into one really, really loud voice.”

To build such a “loud” coalition, Bell said, the organizers hope Food Day will cultivate relationships between Yale students and New Haven community organizers. Ideally, he added, this could result in permanent bonds between Yale organizations and their city counterparts, such as the already established partnership between YHHAP and the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.

The voice of these organizations is meant to stand as a counterpoint to large food, drink and restaurant corporations that have a “lot of teeth in what happens in our country’s food policy,” as Bell puts it. And so it makes sense that Food Day (which occurred twice in the ’70s) is resurging in 2011, the year of the Farm Bill’s renewed presence in legislative discussion. The Farm Bill, Bell explained, is an extensive piece of legislation that determines United States food policy, and by proxy, global food policy.

The supporters of destructive food policies are so powerful that coalitions like the one between the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project and DESK aren’t enough.

“People perceive there being so many different food issues — sustainable agriculture, food deserts, junk food advertising, hunger,” Albert-Chandhok said. “But to solve any of these issues you have to solve them all.”

Albert-Chandhok and the other organizers enumerated countless examples of the cycle of the food industry in our nation — how curtailing junk food advertising would diminish the power of large factory farms, which would then cause a shift of support towards sustainable farms, which would provide healthier alternatives to grocery shoppers, which would provide a solution to the obesity crisis — the cycle just goes on and on and on.

And so Food Day focuses on not just one of these problems, but all of them. By organizing events over Yale-New Haven lines and causing a supporter of the organic movement to stop and think about how their views may align with those fighting the war on poverty, the organizers of New Haven Food Day hope to open the discussion about how all of these ideas relate to each other. This combination is necessary to challenge national legislation.

From movie screenings to farmer’s markets to cooking lessons to the “Dine to End Hunger” fundraiser at DESK, there are countless ways to get involved, all of which are easily browsable on Food Day’s website. Your current views on food may have a much more far-reaching impact than you know.

CORRECTION: Oct. 25, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the Farm Bill as “Farmville.”

Comments

  • Alasti

    This is so admirable. Perhaps, though, you meant to refer to the
    Food Bill, rather than “Farmville”?