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Krupp: Food Sovereignty

11/04/10 5:55PM By Ron Krupp
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(HOST) The farm and food movement has taken off like wildfire in Vermont. Yet commentator Ron Krupp says there are still many questions concerning the future of our food.
(KRUPP)  For the past two years, I've done talks on the topic of food sovereignty at libraries around the state. I've focused on how we vote with our pocketbooks. It's called Kitchen Table Democracy in Action. But lately, my thinking has shifted. While I still believe that choice is part of the solution for a more sustainable food economy, empowering people is just as critical.
One such program is called Community Kitchen. It's run by the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf and sponsored by the Vermont Food Bank. The goal is to train unemployed and underemployed Vermonters in the culinary arts. 40 students graduated from the program in August of this year. Since January '09, the Chittenden County Food Shelf has sent five classes through the program. Of the graduates, 92 percent have found jobs.
On the international level, peasant farmers in third-world countries should have the opportunity to own their own land and become producers, not farm workers. They need to be able to control the market distribution system by taking agriculture out of the control of the World Trade Organization and the global food corporations. La Via Campesina is one such organization that is working to empower poor farmers in the third world.  While writers like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser talk of greater local food choice in the U.S., the work of La Via Campesina addresses the real problem of who controls the food supply in developing countries.
The localvore-farmers' market slow food movement has brought greater awareness to the importance of supporting local farmers, the need to produce local products like flour from grains, corn meal, sunflower oil and cider vinegar, and how to learn to prepare healthy food from scratch. These initiatives are a response to the industrialized food system that relies on processed foods with little nutritional value. These solutions make sense, but they are only part of the answer. Empowering people through training in the culinary arts, building community gardens, teaching folks about good nutrition in the home and school, and putting food by are just as critical.    
Here are a just few examples of these initiatives. The Chubby Muffin in Burlington's Old North End is offering cooking classes on canning and food preservation. Post Oil Solutions in Southern Vermont has been doing workshops for five years on sauerkraut making, building root cellars and cold-frames, starting plants from seeds in spring, and extending the growing season in fall.  Vermont's Campaign to End Childhood Hunger provides nutrition and cooking classes to low-income people, and the list goes on and on throughout the Green Mountains. We are just beginning to reclaim what our ancestors did - not that long ago.
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