Occupy Fair Trade!

Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy the Food System.

Last week Sienna Chrisman posted a great piece on the Civil Eats blog describing recent happenings in the food system:  food speculation driving up food costs, land grabs, and the consolidation of the food industry throughout the entire food chain. In her piece, “Why the Food Movement Should Occupy Wall Street,” Chrisman makes an argument that the food justice movement should link up to the Occupy Wall Street movement because both struggles beg the question, “how do we bring about fundamental change?”

“All along the food chain, people are squeezed by powerful corporations: Walmart demands low prices from its suppliers, so the suppliers cut wages for workers in the factories and fields; most food stores rely on a single national buyer, so it is almost impossible for small producers to get products onto the shelves; supermarket chains buy out the competition and then close the only store in a low-income neighborhood.”

A week later, the Huffington Post published an article by Eric Holt Gimenez, Executive Director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, entitled, “Occupy the Food Movement!” arguing that it is time for those of us concerned about delivering the supply of healthy food to get more political and fight for needed policy changes that keep power in the hands of agribusiness.

Both articles highlight the need for structural change, not just market solutions.  Ultimately both are needed.  We need folks on the ground, in the trenches, working to build models for alternative supply chains that emphasize small farmer, local, and co-operative business structures.  We also need food justice activists who are organizing to change policies, such as the U.S. Farm Bill and unfair Free Trade bills such as the ones that unfortunately were just approved.

The Fair Trade system was created to be one of those movements that work on the ground, with farmer organizations, progressive, independent food stores, consumer co-operatives, and Alternative Trade Organizations, to create a new model.  Not only was this a way to provide healthy food through an independent supply chain, but once organized, the farmer organizations also have been able to effect broader economic and political changes in their communities.  Through practical, concrete actions, we built a system that was rooted in good business practices, as well as in economic development and social justice.

The key in all of this is transformation.

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