Hi there! My name is Megan and I am a member of the Equal Exchange Action Forum, as well as the Events, Education and Sustainability Coordinator at the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, NH. Our co-op is passionate about food system reform and creating supply chains which serve and benefit all of those involved.
What does democracy mean to you? Do you believe that you are an active citizen in a democracy? How about in your food system? To me, democracy goes beyond showing up for one day to vote for a presidential candidate, sharing a politically charged status on social media, or filling out your e-mail to sign another online petition. Democracy takes effort, commitment, collective responsibility, and passion. It’s not always easy, certainly not simple, but if we as a people are committed to a better world, it cannot begin and end on Election Day.
On June 9, we welcomed about 50 Equal Exchange worker-owners, 50 members of our Action Forum, and three coffee producers, together for a day of shared learning at our first-ever People's Food System Summit. With topics ranging from how climate change is impacting small-scale farming communities, to the manipulation of the "Fair Trade" movement, to the consolidation of the food system, it was a day that left many of us wondering, what can we do about it? How can we organize consumers?
Over the last year we have had the chance to organize and meet some of our strongest supporters at Action Forum events. In person, from the West Coast to the East Coast, and in virtual forums, we have tried to articulate what we know needs to be built and why we need your participation to succeed. It has been interesting and a challenge. A bunch of you have jumped in with us, and we thank you, while others have expressed confusion around what exactly the Action Forum is and does.
In mid-May, Equal Exchange, together with our friends at Root Capital, brought together six coffee farmer cooperatives for two days of self diagnostics and collaborative strategic planning in Jaltenango, Chiapas, Mexico.
Cooperation among cooperatives is the sixth international cooperative principle. Few organizations can lay a stronger claim to putting it into action than Equal Exchange. Since our founding 31 years ago, our very mission, organizational model, and business practices are lived out in adherence to this core value.
Edith Stacey-Huber is passionate about food. She is the creator of the food buying club Authentic Provisions just outside of Ann Arbor, Mich. Authentic Provisions aims to reconnect people in the community to the food, land and farmers who sustain them, through collective purchasing outside of the corporate food system. Edith is also a member of the Equal Exchange Action Forum and will be presenting at our upcoming People’s Food System Summit on June 9-10.
At the beginning of April, the world’s largest coffee conglomerate, JAB Holdings, bought Panera Bread and its 2,000 cafés across the U.S. You may not know JAB by name, but the Luxembourg-based holding company has been the biggest player in the industry since 2015. This nesting dolls effect – a brand being swallowed up by bigger and bigger companies, distorting what was once familiar – isn’t just a trend in coffee. It’s happening all over in the food industry.
Today is International Workers Day, also known as May Day, which has roots in U.S. history, but is barely recognized here as it is officially in 66 other countries and unofficially in many more. Yet we owe our eight hour work day and five day work week, among other labor protections, to the 300,000 men, women and children who walked off their jobs on May 1, 1886, to protest their working conditions and lack of power in the growing capitalist industrial system, of which their labor was a necessary part.
In the lead up to May Day, we would like to share the voice of a worker in the food service industry. As you will hear, profits in this industry are often at the expense of exploited workers. We wish to support the hopes and aspirations of food workers too often invisible to consumers, from those who harvest the crops to those so critical to the success of the restaurant and fast food industries.