The modern food industry is one of the most complexly interconnected systems in the world. After all, everyone has to eat. In America, food connects to much beyond its production, harvest, processing and distribution — there's the economy, the environment and political and cultural influences. So how do we change the system as a whole to make sure that everyone can have continued or improved access to life's sustaining force? These questions and more are explored in No Table Too Small: Engaging in the Art and Attitude of Social Change, a new guidebook of sorts for community-based food organizers by Seattle activist and writer Laura Titzer.
Throughout the book's chapters, Titzer utilizes her own experience from more than a dozen years working with groups addressing food insecurity, environmental and economic sustainability and increased access to locally produced food. Before stopping in Spokane for a reading and discussion, co-hosted by Catholic Charities Spokane's Food for All program, we caught up with Titzer by phone. The following responses have been edited for length and clarity.
INLANDER: Who is this book for?
TITZER: I think the core audience is people who are either currently trying to change the food system, or wanting to get involved in that and haven't for whatever reason. The interesting thing about the book is that it's applicable to people not just in the food system, but people trying to make change in a lot of different systems.
How would you summarize the book to potential readers?
It really talks about the importance of engagement and inclusion, and not just including all the like-minded people who are wanting to see the change, but all the voices, and the ones you may not agree with. And, how we really bring those voices and opinions to the table and how we work with that.
How did you become an active organizer in the food system?
It started maybe 12 years ago. I was in Indiana and I got started in an environmental group called Earth Charter. I got loosely involved with them, and I joined a food justice book club. So in this book club we're reading books each month, and I got tired of reading the books. I wanted to go out and do something.
What are you doing now?
I am at the Washington State Farmers Market Association, working with folks we contract with throughout the state to increase food access at all markets through SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program]. I also provide consulting services for groups and organizations outside of that.
What is the biggest issue today in our food system?
What's really coming up for me now, and has been of late, is the structural and institutional racism, which presents a lot of barriers and challenges. We see it a lot in the fact that most people who are low income and hungry are people of color, and people who make the lowest wages are people of color — also in the food system, the food workers at restaurants or manufacturing, processing and distributing.
What are we doing right in the food system, or moving toward doing right?
In the emergency food system realm there is a national movement to look at racial justice within that system, and what that means... and to look at being more than a charity model. There are also a lot more groups supporting these grassroots, small movements or organizations on the ground trying to make that change in their community, whether a group of workers at a farm, or a small person-of-color-led organization. ♦
Laura Titzer: No Table Too Small • Thu, March 22, at 7 pm • Free • Auntie's Bookstore • 402 W. Main • auntiesbooks.com • 838-0206