During a recent event at SXSW organized by Food Tank, Huston-Tillotson University, Oatly, and others, food system scholars and activists discussed the intersection of food, culture, and economics.
Cortlin Harrison, a barista at the first unionized Starbucks in Buffalo, New York and a member of Starbucks Workers United highlighted some of the deep inequities perpetuated by food corporations. “We were seeing partners who can’t afford their rent, partners struggling with food insecurity,” Harrison says. “Meanwhile we’re seeing the corporate elite make billions of dollars in profit,”
Panelists also pointed to many challenges on the farm. Sue Beckwith, Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food notes, “Black farmers and ranchers are losing heritage land to predatory developers every single day.”
And Gerardo Reyes, a leader of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, called out the exploitation and human rights abuses farm workers exploitation. But, Reyes implores, “Please don’t feel sorry for us. Stand with us.”
To change the food system for the better, Harrison and others echo the call for solidarity. Panelists also argue that a multifaceted approach is needed, recognizing that food systems intersect with many of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Riana Lynn, Founder of Journey Foods, maintains that research, policy, and entrepreneurship are all necessary to build a better food system. “No one of those things can be left behind,” Lynn says.
And Adrian Lipscombe, Founder of The 40 Acres Project, emphasizes the importance of land access, stating that “land provides identity, community, and economy.”
Looking to the future, panelists also offered messages to young people, hoping that they can mobilize their own networks. “The lowest hanging fruit is to try to change your immediate communities,” says Alex Racelis, Associate Professor of Agroecology at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Watch the full event below: