Occupy Wall Street: What’s food got to do with it?
What began with an encampment of makeshift cardboard tents and an impromptu sidewalk gallery of protest signs has exploded into a movement that’s spawning sister protests nationwide. But as numbers grow, so do logistical challenges: how do you feed a crowd of 20,000?
At the cafeteria-style “kitchen” in Zuccotti Square (the OWS base camp), plates of donated food are doled out by a rotating cast of volunteers, including trained chefs (the overwhelming quantity of donated food has organizers scrambling to donate to local shelters, ensuring nothing is wasted.) Operating on 100% food donations means the kitchen team has to improvise based on what’s at hand, and prepare any hot meals at apartments or kitchen space in the neighborhood. However improvised, the kitchen supports the values of the activists: food scraps go into a compost bin, and dishwater passes through a filter to be reused.
And good, clean, and fair food IS a value of the activists. But what does it have to do with Wall Street? Food justice writer and activist Jan Poppendeick says the connection is corporate control of agriculture. The statistics are staggering (90% of the corn market is dominated by 3 companies, for example) and the resulting degradation of human health and the environment endangers our health, and the future health of our food supply. Reclaiming control of the food system from corporate entities is one of the written tenets of the OWS declaration: “[corporations] have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.” Another tenet speaks to animal cruelty inflicted by the common industrial practice of confining animals into tight quarters with abhorrent conditions.
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