Registration for fifth annual HomeGrown Local Food Summit is open
From the HomeGrown Local Food Summit website
(Re)Imagining a Fair Food System
Friday, Feb. 22, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College
4800 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor
Want to get involved in this area's local food movement? The opportunity to make a year's worth of connections in a single day is coming up — but you have to sign up if you want to be there. Registration for Washtenaw County's 5th annual HomeGrown Local Food Summit just opened for the one-day food system conference on Friday, Feb. 22 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Scholarships are available for students, farmers, and others who might not be able to afford the $40 registration fee.
The wintertime HomeGrown Local Food Summit is the "strategic" partner event to the September HomeGrown Festival "harvest celebration," and both are projects of Slow Food Huron Valley (of which I am a board member). Led this year by Co-Chairs Shannon Brines and Jason Frenzel, the Local Food Summit is organized by a planning committee of nearly two dozen volunteers — many of them participating as planners this year for the first time.
Once again, the summit will be hosted (and supported by the Culinary Arts Department) at Washtenaw Community College. This year's theme is "(Re)Imagining a Fair Food System" with the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and James Beard Leadership Award winner, Malik Yakini, delivering the morning's keynote address.
Amanda Gallaher, master's student in public health and 2013 Content Committee Chair, says, "This year we are planning to explore the idea of fairness in the food system by asking participants to think about what a fair food system would look like. With the various presentations and activities that we will have throughout the day, we aim to raise awareness about food system inequities, promote discussion about them, and encourage people to work towards finding solutions through collaborations."
Co-Chair Shannon Brines says that in addition, "We are hoping attendees will be led a little bit outside of their comfort zone, hearing some perspectives that might be outside of their typical purview of our food system."
Through the work of organizations like Food Gatherers, many of us are aware of the connection in our food system between poverty and hunger. Additional issues around fairness in the food system will be examined from the perspectives of other important stakeholders — like farmers and farm workers, and food service and restaurant workers.
Regarding the latter, Gallaher notes "We are very excited to be part of Saru Jayaraman’s tour for her forthcoming book "Behind the Kitchen Door." Considering how food is grown is important, but this book brings to light the less than ideal working conditions of the people who cook, prepare and serve our food. She will also join local leaders for a panel discussion about what it means to create a fair food system."
Jayaraman, Co-founder and Co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, will be appearing on a morning panel discussion with other important voices advocating for a more just food system including. Others who have been invited to appear include: Oran Hesterman, president of the Fair Food Network; Al Flores, public information officer at the Michigan Department of Civil Rights; and Tracie McMillan, author of "The American Way of Eating."
Amanda Gallaher says, "I think it is important to have an event like the Local Food Summit because it encourages continuing discussion about the progress we have made and how far we still need to go in a critical but constructive way. It allows people to have a voice who may not normally participate in other food system work, and it is an opportunity for people to make connections with people from different areas of the food system who they may not normally meet. It gives an opportunity for people to jumpstart new ideas or brings attention to the issues that affect our community most."
One new activity at this year's summit is "Innovations for a fair food system." Gallaher says, "We are giving participants the opportunity to propose project ideas that will help to build a fair food system in Washtenaw County. The top proposals will be given an opportunity to pitch their idea to the entire Food Summit audience, offering them the chance to network with others interested in offering support and learning more. Other contributors will also be given a chance during lunch to network around shared ideas."
Shannon Brines says he believes this work is important because "getting local folks discussing, thinking creatively, and working toward solutions together is the only way to build a strong, resilient, and sustainable community — on all topics, not just food."
The Local Food Summit is contributing to a vision for a "Beloved Food Community" by "promoting the idea that good food is for everyone, and we are working towards building a community that exemplifies this," says Amanda Gallaher.
"That means realizing the inequities around us, creating transparency, and then raising awareness about these issues. By doing this and removing barriers between stakeholders, we can find new ways to solve problems. I personally have found an interest in food system work not because I feel an obligation to do so but because I feel connected to the people and the place. I feel that when more of us have access to good food, the community as a whole will be more resilient and fruitful."
Kim Bayer is a freelance writer and culinary researcher. Email her at kimbayer at gmail dot com.