Growing a Movement: The Just Food Conference 2012

Margaret Riche is GRACE’s Public Service Scholar. Riche is in her final year at Hunter College, where she is studying public service and creative writing and is participating in the interdisciplinary Thomas Hunter Honors program.

A more sustainable and equitable food system is not only possible, it’s necessary, and in the face of many challenges, a genuine – and inspiring – food movement working toward that system is flourishing. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the heart of New York City at this year’s Just Food Conference. With over 1,500 attendees and more than 1,000 waitlisted, the gathering attracted rural and urban farmers, local food lovers, community gardeners, CSA members, food professionals and even a few key politicians. Early one recent Friday morning, I joined this diverse mass of advocates who convened in the High School of Food & Finance on the Upper West Side, ready to learn, network and brainstorm.

The event was extremely comprehensive – with over 80 different workshops, a careers panel, five “food talks,” a job fair and a farmers' panel, there was definitely something for everyone. To sum it all up would be a truly Herculean task, (and no doubt would still fall short of capturing its spirit) so instead, here are some highlights from the event:

For me, this conference felt like an important convergence of the many efforts to protect the environment, promote local food, end hunger, establish fair wages and create a more equitable food system. Within this complex web of political, economic and environmental goals, we found real grounds for hope and change. Over the course of the two-day event, I heard about many of the deeply entrenched problems with our food system, but I also heard so much good news. Everywhere I went I saw people having light-bulb moments and making important connections with others for potential future projects. A lot of seeds were planted in the form of lessons learned and partnerships formed at the Just Food conference this year, and as always, I look forward to watching this movement continue to grow.