Ending food oppression: Reclaiming identity & culture through real, local food

Over the past 10 years, the local food movement has fortunately become more mainstream and consumers are demanding more transparency in the food system. But, before us food activists and advocates pat ourselves on the back, let's realize and recognize that we have a long way to go.  At the core of the good, local food fight are issues of social justice and equality. At the most basic, human level, we sometimes forget that food and its accessibility is directly linked to physical and cultural survival. Many of us don't see this, of course, because we live in a mirage of abundance and the assumption that food is always just, well, there. (A tomato in January - of course!) After living and working on a Reservation for a few years, I know firsthand that this isn't the case. Vast food deserts and the loss of culture are very much real, connected entities. 

For many native communities, the celebration and cultivation of true local food is a reflection of the health, vitality, viability and longevity of their cultures, and, fortunately, not just a quaint, trendy thing. By celebrating and eating local and indigenous crops, native populations are attempting to end food oppression, namely the cycle of dependence on government food commodities and welfare, and reclaiming their food system and futures.

With this said, we'd be setting ourselves up for failure if we think that the best thing to do is for us to all return to eating hyper locally within our foodsheds. What does that even mean, after all? Do we really think that the majority of individuals will return to hunting or gathering? Are we prepared for the real concept of "feast or famine"? I don't think so.

But, by drawing attention to flavors and foods that are rooted in place and that are celebrations of culture, we can use them to stand up to unjust food practices that have somehow become normalized in our decades of passive eating.

Native leaders are teaching us to speak with our food (See? The title of this site has a point!). If you can spare a few minutes, watch this short segment from Mic on the native food sovereignty movement in Minnesota. It features some incredible leaders in the native food movement, including Sean Sherman (a.k.a. The Sioux Chef) and the growers and grounds of the Wozupi Tribal Gardens. Cool things are happening - a movement is afoot and it's one we should and need to get behind!