Recapping the 2015 New England Food Summit

June 26, 2015

Written By: Ravdeep Jaidka, Food Solutions New England Fellow

I am spending this summer working with Food Solutions New England, a regional network organized around a single goal: to transform the New England food system into a resilient driver of racial equity and food justice, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities. Over the course of the summer, I am developing case studies around successes in climate resilience in the region, as well as taking a close look at social justice and racial equity in our region’s food system.

Before I could dive into my project, there was an even more exciting project on the horizon: the Fifth Annual New England Food Summit. The first week of my Fellowship was abuzz with Summit talk and preparation, from building nametags and stuffing folders to coordinating accommodations and bus trips, building much anticipation for the event itself.

What is the New England Food Summit?

For the last five years, the New England Food Summit has brought together delegates from the six New England states to strengthen our regional food system networks. These working summits are designed to build upon ongoing efforts across the region and to consider action items that can be undertaken most effectively together. The Summit rotates through the six New England states and this year was Massachusetts’ turn to play host. The 2015 Summit was held at Simmons College in Boston, amidst the hustle and bustle of summer classes, Fenway, and a thriving food scene.

What was special about this year’s Summit?

This year, the Summit focused on racial equity in the food system and the issue of fair price, specifically the changes necessary to have economic justice across the food chain. The conversations benefited through the inclusion of a new delegation, namely the Food Chain Workers Delegation. Often, discussing issues of equity in a conference setting can seem hollow or lacking, given that the voice of our workers is often missing from the table. This year, the Summit made a concerted effort to bring together workers from across the supply chain, including farms, retail stores, processing centers, and advocacy organizations.

The inclusion of the Food Chain Workers Delegation was invaluable, bringing a fresh and powerful perspective to the discussions around equity and justice. As said succinctly and valiantly by Heather LaPenn from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, “We must stop subsidizing our food through the wages of our workers”.

Other Summit highlights

  • Reception at Boston Design Center: At the end of the first day, attendees got a chance to mingle at a reception at the Boston Design Center, against the beautiful backdrop of the Boston Harbor.  A Summit focusing on food and sustainability is held up to high standards when it comes to its catering. Fortunately, the Summit lived up those expectations. Thanks to Stir It Up Cuisine, which offered delicious Caribbean food, all sourced regionally!
  • Commitment to racial equity: The Summit concluded with a resounding commitment to equity in our food system. Invoking Thomas Paine, an attendee said that we must become intolerant of intolerance.
  • Diversity: Having attended numerous food conferences, the Summit’s strength lies in its ability to bring together diverse actors and stakeholders. Discussing food system issues with food chain workers, funders, policymakers, activists, and academics that span the cultural and racial spectrum is truly reflective of the actors engaged in food system efforts.
  • Summit selfie: Of course, any event must be memorialized with a selfie (Thanks, Niaz!).

So you didn’t attend the Summit, but you can still be a part of the regional efforts!

  • Support the Milk with Dignity campaign by signing this petition.
  • Normalize the conversation around race and racial equity using these tools.
  • Follow #fsne15 to learn more about conference.

Follow Ravdeep @ravdeepj

Follow Food Solutions New England @_fsne


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