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What Can You Do about the Violence of Hunger? Start by Taking the Grassroots Land and Hunger Challenges

June 2006

Our curriculum “Land and Hunger: Making the Rights Connection” is complete and up on our website. All of the exercises have been tested at least once. One of the exercises that we’re most excited about is called “What You Can Do.” This is the exercise that lets us know whether or not the workshop compels participants to act. This movement from education to action is a crucial element in our effort to raise consciousness and build social movements.

We hope that this series of consciousness raising exercises will compel people to think more profoundly, empathize with our partners and, finally, move them to action. Below are three “Challenges” that bring home the connections between land, hunger, poverty and the globalization of the food industry. We also hope to demonstrate our popular education approach, which is provocative, fun and interactive, allowing learners to participate in the education process and draw from their own knowledge base. Our approach assumes that the learning process, in and of itself, is an act that should compel participants to act in ways that advance social justice.

We invite you to read our web log over the next few days. We will be sharing the trials, tribulations and responses of some of the people who attempted the challenges. We encourage you to try them as well and welcome any of your comments. You can add your comments here on Grassroots Journal or email me.

The Challenges:

Part One:

To get you started thinking about the relationships between land, hunger and the food system, try one of the following options. Give yourself bonus points if you try to combine elements of more than one challenge.

1. Your home town on $2/day
Challenge yourself to eat on $2/day for a week. The idea for this challenge is to look at how poverty and hunger are related. This amount does not include transportation, labor, rent, gas, electricity or any other inputs needed. To fully experience this challenge, you must use only $2 each day, not $14 in one lump sum at the beginning of the week. Keep track of what types of foods you eat. Track whether or not the quality of food you eat changes drastically. It might also be interesting to note if you have to travel further or go to different stores than you usually shop at. Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2/day including expenses for heat, housing, etc. That is almost half the world’s population. This widely used figure has been adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP).

2. Eat Locally
The increasing globalization of the food industry has caused an ever-growing sense of alienation from the food we eat which is made worse by the lack of information on where food is from, how it’s produced and what’s in it.

Challenge yourself to eat only locally produced food for a week. Keep a log and answer some of the following questions:

What foods you are able to eat?
Is the quality of the food that is available comparable to food that is not locally produced?
How much does it cost in comparison to what you would normally spend?
Where do you have to go to purchase local food?
Are you forced to travel a longer distance?
Is there a farm near that sells local products?
How far do you have to travel to get to a local farm that produces and sells food?
Does buying locally produced food affect planning of meals and time?

3. The Global “Foodshed”
Challenge: Like water flows through a watershed, our food flows from producer to consumer. How far does your food have to travel to get to your table?

Keep a daily food log tracking the country of origin of every item you eat for a week.

What is the food item?
What is the city and country of origin of the food item?
What company makes the food item?
List the ingredients of the food item and write down any ingredients that are unfamiliar to you.

Part Two: Take the Next Step
Find some way to share this activity with others or take the experience of this exercise and put it into action. You may want to share some of your reactions as comments here on Grassroots Journal or on your own personal or organizational weblog, encourage friends or family members to try one of the challenges, share the land curriculum with other interested parties or take some other action. Whether you make this an intimate personal experience or invite your whole school to join you in the challenge, we’d love to hear from you.

Here’s a link to Marty Wrin’s journal entries about his experiences with the challenges.

Update: I’ve posted my log and impressions here and you can read Jennifer Lemire’s and Corrina Steward’s posts, too.

Stay tuned to the latest posts for more.

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