On April 5th and 6th, Just Food held its annual conference in partnership with the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy,Teachers College Columbia University. With almost 700 attendees, 130 presenters, and more than 50 volunteers over two days, it was a lively and thought-provoking event. Participants and presenters included food professionals, policymakers, advocates, CSA members, community organizers, students, farmers and members of the general public.
This year, the organizers introduced a brand-new format for conference goers. In addition to the main conference day on Sunday at Teachers College, featuring participatory workshops and plenary sessions, conference organizers hosted a variety of all-day intensive sessions and tours throughout the city on Saturday in order to give attendees the chance to completely immerse themselves in the topic of their choice. These intensive workshops included Cooking for Sustainability, Food Fermentation, Grassroots Organizing, and an evaluation workshop for community food programs.
A common theme that emerged from Sunday’s Food Talks and featured panels was how to advance a food movement that puts justice at the forefront and authentically integrates the stories, values and viewpoints of all people. Speakers challenged audience members to take a good hard look at issues such as food sovereignty, sweat equity, and structural racism in their efforts to build a just and sustainable food system. The “Race in the Food System” panel explored how racism and systems of oppression shape our food system and how we can push for change and build solidarity and justice. A key conversation during the “Beyond Farm to Table: Chefs and their Communities” panel was food worker rights, and how to create a just and supportive workplace. Equitable access to good food, housing, and education were main discussion points during the “NYC Food Policy: What’s Ahead” forum with city officials.
The thirty workshops and panels centered around community food projects, community supported agriculture, food education, food justice, school food, and communications. Sessions ranged from broad themes such as the intersection of climate change and the food movement, to specific skill building workshops on topics such as making herbal medicines and community organizing. Innovation was woven throughout the workshops, from the latest in social media to crowdfunding to the future of good food jobs for NYC, the workshop that the NYC Food Policy Center presented in partnership with Hot Bread Kitchen, Food Chain Workers Alliance, and CUNY.
Recordings of the Food Talks and some of the featured panels are available on Just Food’s Vimeo channel.