By Frankie Pondolph & Danielle Robidoux, Action Forum Organizers
For many years Equal Exchange has told the story of our worker cooperative, the story of our producer partners, but what stories make up the community of customers, activists and allies that we are building together through the newly launched Action Forum? Who are they? What are they doing out in the world? How can we begin to build one story together?
Since launching the Action Forum in late 2016, we have traveled all over the U.S. to bring people together around one overarching theme: our food system. We just wrapped up another travel leg, starting with a series of events in the Philadelphia area.
The goal of these events was to engage local communities around food system topics that the Action Forum seeks to address, debate, discuss and critique, such as greenwashing of certifications, the corporatization of Fair Trade, and the consolidation of the food system. We had conversation starters like how can we take actions as consumers that go beyond buying? What does a people’s food system look like?
Attendees included food cooperative employees and board members, vegetable farmers, restaurant workers, Equal Exchange investors, non-profit leaders, church goers, professors, student activists, local buying club advocates, and those curious to get to know Equal Exchange and our mission on a deeper level.
After an energizing few days in Philadelphia, we then headed to the West Coast to do it again. We held events in Seattle, Olympia, San Francisco, and Portland, Ore., and further discussed innovative solutions together.
Each event produced a diversity of ideas around the food system, its dilemmas, and what we can do to create change together. There is vital work that needs to be done at every level, whether that’s asking restaurants where food is sourced, educating students on the exploitation of people and land in supply chains, creating non-profits to address food access, joining a local food co-op or CSA, or providing a space for people to gather and discuss the future of food. We need to continue to gather around tables, in church basements and community centers, and dig into the history, challenges and solutions toward building a democratic food system that works for the people.
We will continue to host both in-person events and virtual ones, to try and connect all the amazing folks working toward common broad goals. This work can feel big and daunting, but hearing your stories and passions let’s us know that we’re on the right path.
Join us in these conversations; become an Action Forum member and get access to our online discussion forum, future events, and in-depth content. If you’re interested in hosting an Action Forum event in your area, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org