Come to the Table (CTTT) Program Director Justine Post Shares a Vision for the CTTT program at RAFI-USA.
Can you imagine a food system that works for everyone? What if everyone had the resources and allocations to purchase food for themselves? What if farmers and farm workers were paid fairly, enough for their businesses to thrive?
That’s the kind of food system I imagine: an economy that allows everyone to participate using their own means is a just food system. We all know that this vision is a long way from reality. For those of you who volunteer at a food ministry, you know there are hundreds of families who are in need of emergency food assistance. Your weeks are likely filled with preparing, purchasing food, planning logistics, and spreading the word; all to ensure that the food insecure North Carolinians in your communities have food. Meeting local, ongoing needs is incredibly taxing work that takes up a lot of your time. Yet at this moment I ask you to take a second to ask: what would it take for our current food system to work for everyone?
The Come to the Table team wants to imagine that kind of food system with you. Where consumers have fair and affordable options to feed themselves well. Where emergency feeding services are no longer needed. Where farmers of color, who have been held back by discriminatory policies and practices for centuries, have guaranteed market access and participation. We imagine this system because it’s what we do: Come to the Table’s mission is to empower faith communities to participate in a just food system through collaboration, capacity building, and advocacy. This is what Come to the Table believes it will take to create a just food system:
- Collaboration: We encourage and introduce mutually beneficial partnerships between farmers of color and faith communities to both ensure market access for historically underserved farmers and to create just ways for faith communities to participate in their economies.
- Capacity Building: We provide training, facilitation, education, and funding to faith communities so that they can take the next step in deepening their relationship with farmers of color, with those they serve, or with their broader communities.
- Advocacy: We aim to build networks of faith leaders, lay leaders, and other faith-based participants to engage in broader policy-advocacy work so that this food system can eventually work for everyone.
We want to frame opportunities for faith communities as simple, next steps done in partnership with others. For example, we have seen that an increase in partnerships between faith communities and farmers of color has proven to be a win for all parties involved. Farmers of color gain access to additional revenue streams; congregants receive high-quality produce that is integrated into their weekly diets; food pantries acquire fresh, quality produce to distribute to those most in need, and relationships between churches and farmers of color are strengthened. To be certain, it can be overwhelming to consider all the factors at play in our economic system that keeps people from thriving. However RAFI-USA and Come to the Table can offer a few first steps that congregations can take to strengthen a food system that depends on trust, accountability, and equal opportunity to thrive.