A Fair Food system is a democratic, participatory food system, which works for the benefit of everyone: human and non-human. We reveal how you can help support the Fair Food movement.
Many people speak of our current era as the time of the Great Turning, or the Great Transition.
We are at a point in our journey as humanity where, as the philosopher Thomas Berry puts it, we must move from a “period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner”.
The ways in which we produce, distribute and consume food lie at the heart of this transition. Many of us in Australia’s emerging food movement speak of this as a transition to a Fair Food system.
What is Fair Food?
Fair Food is food produced, distributed and consumed in ways that are ecologically sustainable, ethically sound and socially just. Fair Food is the Australian interpretation of the international concept of food sovereignty, which was launched in the mid-1990s by leaders of the global family farmers’ movement, La Via Campesina (or the farmers’ way).
Food sovereignty means a democratic and participatory food system at global, national and regional levels. In which farmers and communities determine collectively the purpose and design of their food systems for their own benefit, rather than the key decisions being taken by, and for the benefit of, the largest multinational agribusiness and retail corporations.
Food sovereignty is a theory and a practice in which increasingly personal and intimate relationships are formed around food. A classic example is farmers’ markets, where you can buy ‘food with a face’ directly from the person who grew or raised the food (in the case of true producers’ markets).
Even more direct is buying from the farmer, at the farm gate or farm shop. Community-supported agriculture is another expression of a connected food system, where the farmer (or group of farmers) sells shares or subscriptions in a growing season, or animal or herd, to a group of nearby residents.
Why do we need a Fair Food system?
We urgently need to embrace the transition to a Fair Food system because the globalised, corporate-controlled food system is not merely broken, it’s killing us and ruining our possibilities for a decent and liveable future.
Some of the more destructive impacts of this system are hunger and malnutrition, negative effects on our health and wellbeing, exploitation, soil erosion and degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change.
How did we get to this point where, collectively, we appear to be the authors of our own demise? For me the key word is ‘disconnection’.
Disconnection takes many different forms in different times and places.
In Australia we’re all familiar with the supermarket duopoly and its increase in the grocery market share from 35 per cent in the mid-1970s to around 70 to 80 per cent today. This increase has coincided with an exodus of our farmers from the land. Many argue that this is no coincidence.
More generally, the broken, dysfunctional and destructive food system is itself a symptom of our culture, which values money above all else. When short-term gain is prioritised as the highest individual and social value, and becomes the overarching goal, anything becomes possible and permissible to achieve that end.
In contrast, a Fair Food system is a democratic, participatory food system, which works for the benefit of everyone: human and non-human; producer, worker, urban gardener and city dweller; people of all classes and cultural backgrounds; children and adults; women and men. Its highest values are universal flourishing, long-term ecosystem health, and pleasure and enjoyment for all.
What can you do, right now, to support a Fair Food system?
I imagine you’re already doing a lot:
- Growing some of your own food;
- Supporting your local grocery store and farmers’ market;
- Being part of a local permaculture group, community garden, local food or transition network.
- But one of the most powerful things we can do as individuals is to try to always make ethical choices when purchasing food; choices that support our farmers, our communities and our planet.
Then look to your local community and ask yourself: “What can I do to make an impact?” You could:
- Network with others to organise a regular food swap;
- Work with others to get your council to adopt a food policy or urban agriculture strategy;
- Become part of the national and global movement for change.
There is nothing more exciting, and hopeful, than working together with like-minded others for major change. That’s the gift the Fair Food movement offers you.