Despite the many pressing issues that cause me daily anxiety and stress, instead of using this opportunity (as usual) to vent my frustrations with a world run amok, this season I intend to focus on what is inspirational. Don’t think I am suddenly burying my head in the sand about climate change—the plight of polar bears and walruses in the Arctic is always of paramount concern. But I’d like to use this opportunity to tip my hat to the countless individuals in this community and around the world who are devoted to improving quality of life for the many, not just themselves.

A primary issue of our time—some might posit that it is the primary issue—is food: who grows it, what is grown, how it’s grown, how it’s delivered to communities, what it tastes like, what its health benefits or detriments are, why some people eat too much of one thing and not enough of another and why some people have access to healthy foods and others don’t. These are just a few of the many concerns about this most basic thing that nourishes us: food.

But, increasingly, more and more individuals are becoming informed about issues of fair trade, food justice, food sovereignty, food safety, food policy, food security, food democracy, better food in schools, clear and specific labeling of all foods, humane treatment of both the people who grow our food and the farm animals we eat, the elimination of food deserts, pesticide drift onto organic farms, etc. They work tirelessly in this country to inform people of the significant role the Farm Bill plays in our lives. In many countries, including ours, they are affecting policy and getting laws passed to address these issues.

They write blogs to post on the Internet and letters to their government representatives; they plant community vegetable gardens; they volunteer in their children’s schools to improve nutrition.

Understanding that there is power in numbers, they collaborate with other like-minded individuals and organize. What began as a small grassroots movement, in recent years has grown exponentially.

Now, organizations abound with names like California Food and Justice Coalition, WHY Hunger, Just Community Food Systems, Community Food Security Coalition (a national coalition of 500 organizations!) or Food First. As stated on their website, “CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply for the residents of California. We envision a California food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.”

Our basic right to healthy food, as defined by the United Nations Human Rights Council, guides most of these individuals and organizations as they collaborate on ways to safeguard that right while holding accountable those who would deny it. I am deeply inspired by and grateful for all of their efforts.

In the meantime, with an autumn nip in the air and the days getting shorter and shorter, I’m already missing the summer. But here’s to beautiful harvest moons, baking pies and sharing whatever we have to share with family, friends and neighbors.

Jane Handel

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