Connect Blog

Farm Fest 1From Berkeley, California, to Amherst, Massachusetts, the towns where I grew up have been as “local” and “sustainable” as they come. Now, a little more than two years after relocating to New York City, I’ve found myself circling back to the fields and farmers’ markets that colored much of my childhood. As a communications intern at WhyHunger, I spend two days a week in the office thinking and writing about our mission: to build the movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment. It’s a mission built on values I grew up taking for granted because they were, at least in theory, intrinsic to the liberal bubbles in which I was raised.

My connection to WhyHunger’s mission goes beyond places, to the people I was raised by. My family is chock full of foodies, cooks and gardeners, all of whom have fostered my deep appreciation for fresh, local food. My dad, Clem Clay, grew up on a beautiful farm in Vermont, studied soil science, and managed the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets after college and before spending a year as an organic vegetable farmer (with me in tow).

He is the Executive Director of Grow Food Northampton, a community-based organization whose mission is to “promote food security by advancing sustainable agriculture in the Northampton, Massachusetts area.” Grow Food Northampton carries out its mission through a variety of programs centered at its 120-acre community farm, including the 266-plot Organic Community Garden, education programs familiarizing local schoolchildren with concepts like food security and sustainable agriculture, and discounted farm shares for the food insecure.

Clem Clay, Executive Director of GrowFood Northampton (and my dad,) with Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz

In short, it’s exactly the kind of organization WhyHunger works with on a daily basis. So in late October, two months into my internship, I decided to buy a bus ticket back to Massachusetts to lend a hand at Grow Food Northampton’s FarmFest and to size up the organization with my new intern perspective. I spend a lot of my time at WhyHunger reading and writing about the crucial work done by community-based organizations, and I wanted to see how it all manifests in person.

Farm Fest 5FarmFest is an annual tradition for Grow Food Northampton, albeit a relatively new one (this is the organization’s third FarmFest). The event took place on Crimson & Clover Farm, one of the four farms the organization leases land to, and manifests as an afternoon full of food, live music and farm-centric activities (think wagon rides and veggie slingshots). Many of this year’s estimated 350 festival attendees had some prior connection to GrowFood Northampton, but in subsequent years Clay hopes to attract more unfamiliar faces – he believes that FarmFest is a great opportunity to connect more people with GrowFood Northampton’s community programs. “As the owners of the largest community farm in Massachusetts, this is the best opportunity we have to invite the entire community to enjoy the farm and see what we do,” said Clay.

My youngest brother, Aki, is fed a quesadilla from Chanterelle Food Truck.

Arguably the biggest hits of the day were the two local food trucks that served up fresh arepas, giant burritos, whoopee pies and other locally sourced treats. According to Zoe Abram, co-owner of Wheelhouse Farm Truck, “This is our favorite type of event to do. We’re really interested in being part of a vibrant agricultural community in our area, and Grow Food Northampton does a lot of work to support that.”

Zoe Abram, co-owner of Wheelhouse Farm Truck, takes an order a Farm Fest attendee.

A successful FarmFest isn’t the only thing Grow Food Northampton has to celebrate right now – last month, the organization was awarded a $50,000 grant from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to expand their food access programs. Increasing food security is integral to the organization’s mission, which makes this grant particularly important. “It’s been the vision of the organization from the beginning to make sure that we not only support local agriculture but make sure that local food is available to all members of our community,” said Clay.

Farm Fest 4At WhyHunger I’ve seen firsthand, through the work of our partners like the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative and Urban Roots, that fighting the deep social inequalities that lead to poverty and hunger is the most meaningful and sustainable way of ending hunger. This philosophy is also behind two initiatives GrowFood Northampton plans to expand under their Harvard Pilgrim grant: Double SNAP shares and low-cost CSA shares for senior citizens. Clay also hopes to pilot a new CSA program in partnership with local elementary schools, which would make subsidized farm shares available to low-income families using the schools as distribution sites.

Despite their successes, Clay still feels there’s plenty of work to be done in the Northampton area, and has no plans to expand the geographic scope of the organization. “We haven’t even come close to meeting the need in our own community, and we think we can do more good by focusing on increasing our local impact and helping others to replicate our successes in their own communities,” he said.

On the bus ride back to New York the day after FarmFest, I found myself reflecting on the event. It was small, to be sure, but it seemed to me that each and every person who came was genuinely excited to learn about, support and join in the movement for local, sustainable and accessible food. My experience at WhyHunger has only strengthened my belief in grassroots-driven change, so seeing it at work in my former backyard was a happy combination of comforting, gratifying, and inspiring – in short, I’m ready to get back to the office and work!



  Indigenous communities displaced from their land by the expansion of agribusiness in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. (Photo: Cristiano Navarro) Today in New York City, a group of organizations who are allies of WhyHunger are launching a new report titled “Foreign Pension Funds and Land Grabbing in Brazil” that details the seedy underbelly of investments in land acquisitions in that country. Land in Brazil has been one of the primary targets of foreign investors eager to make a profit, especially as market speculators of the raising prices of farmland. These land investments are happening despite the fact that the Brazilian constitution limits...
(Photo courtesy of Mariama Sonko) This is a guest post from Other Worlds, a women-driven education and movement support collaborative. Other Worlds brings to you a 7-part article series featuring interviews with grassroots African leaders (mostly women) from Senegal, Mali, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Each is working for seed and food sovereignty, the decolonization of Africa’s food system, and the preservation of traditional farming practices. The interviews are with traditional farmers, activists, community organizers, policy advocates, seed-savers, and movement-builders (listed below) sharing global to local perspectives on agroecology and traditional peasant farming, the fight against GMOs and imperialist agriculture, supporting rural...
WhyHunger’s latest resource guide “A Path Forward: Innovations at the Intersections of Hunger & Health ” profiles three dynamic organizations God’s Love We Deliver, Capital Roots and Elijah’s Promise who understand the connection between hunger and health and are working to improve the health of their communities in innovative ways. Each organization offers an example of how fresh, healthy, nourishing food can have  a profound effect on the health of low-income people suffering from acute and chronic illnesses, and from poverty itself. Featured are:  God’s Love We Deliver in New York City works squarely at the intersections of hunger and health, delivering 1.4 million nutritious meals annually to people living with HIV/AIDS,...
Bestselling authors Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins have released the book ‘World Hunger:10 Myths’, which reconsiders and updates their highly influential previous version that was first published in 1977. Their in-depth research explodes common misconceptions about hunger and one of the consultants for the text was Peter Mann, former WhyHunger staffer and a long-time food justice activist and leader. WhyHunger intern Evangeline Graham sat down with Peter to talk about the importance of ‘World Hunger: 10 Myths.’ What’s changed since the book was first published in 1977? There’s a whole lot of new research that’s come up about hunger and about...
Hard Rock is kicking off the season of giving by helping to nourish children and families worldwide with IMAGINE THERE’S NO HUNGER. Inspired by John Lennon and his iconic song “IMAGINE,” the global campaign strives to turn his dream of a world with no hunger into a reality. For the...

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2015 marks the 30th year for WhyHunger's Hungerthon tradition that has tapped into the power of radio personalities, listeners, celebrities and fans to raise $15 million to fight for an end to hunger in America and the right to nutritious for food all. WhyHunger and its radio partners team up...

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  This spotlight is a feature on WhyHunger’s digital storytelling website, Community Voices, that showcases grassroots organizations and community leaders through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real view of projects that are working to alleviate food insecurity and increase communities’ access to nutritious food. We believe that telling one’s story is not only an act...

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This is a guest post by Patrick O’Neill, CEO and Founder of Amp Your Good. Nearly all of us are familiar with the good old fashioned food drive.  Most of us have donated canned or boxed goods at one time or another - to a drive sponsored by our company, our church,...

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At the RID All Farm The Movement for Black Lives National Convening was held in Cleveland, Ohio at the end of July and was sponsored by local and national groups: Black Lives Matter, BYP100, Ferguson Action, Cleveland Action, Million Hoodies, Ohio Student Association, Organization for Black Struggle, Project South and Southerners...

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Welcome to WhyHunger’s Connect Blog featuring stories, projects and articles from the community-based organizations, organizers and social movements that are building the movement for food justice.

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