National Co+op Grocers (NCG), a business services co-operative for retail food co-ops in the USA, is working with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) to drive local food and community empowerment.
Through the partnership, NCG will sponsor NFSN’s monthly live conversations about racial equity in the food system, which are available on the latter’s Facebook page. The organisations aim to raise awareness about the under-representation of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) as farm owners and over-representation as food system labourers.
NCG says its 148 community-owned food co-ops are working with an average of 185 local farmers and producers in their communities. The co-op says it is working on internal diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, advocating for equitable food and farm policies and partnering with organisations that are focused on building racial equity in the food system.
NCG has supported NFSN’s work in the past, raising funds for their equity learning lab in 2019 and investing in their Call to Action for 100% of communities to hold power in a racially just food system by 2025.
“As leaders in the local food movement, farm-to-school organisations and food co-ops are working to build racial equity into local food systems,” said C.E. Pugh, CEO of NCG. “NCG’s partnership with NFSN is a recognition that everyone in the local food movement must work to reduce the inequities present in today’s food system. We’re inspired by and grateful for the leadership NFSN is showing to positively impact racial equity, one community at a time.”
NCG has also launched a Call to Action for a racially just food system, identifying three equity-centred priority areas: new relationships, outcome-driven strategies, and transformational programs and policies, which the NCG thinks “have the potential to shift power to those who have been marginalised, exploited and excluded from the current system”.
NSFN launched a similar call in 2020.
According to NFSN, more than 42% of schools in the US engage in farm-to-school activities, which include locally sourced foods in school cafeterias, school gardens and food, nutrition and agriculture curriculum.
“The inequities in our current food system are as old as the history of settler colonialism, stolen land from indigenous peoples and forced enslavement of African people, on whose backs, literally, our American agricultural system was built,”said Helen Dombalis, executive director of NFSN.
“Farm to school activities, when centred in racial equity and relationships, can be a community strategy for correcting these inequities and cultivating the just food system that so many of us seek. We are grateful for NCG’s continued partnership and support in our collective work towards this vision.”