Reflections on the Closing of the Community Food Security Coalition

By Alison Cohen, WhyHunger Director of Programs

The announcement that the Community Food Security Coalition will cease its operations came as a surprise to many of us – especially those who have been instrumental in its founding and steadfast in supporting its development and maintenance.  I share what many have described as a feeling of loss and as an anxiety about the future without CFSC. The road ahead for a food justice movement in the United States will be challenging without a membership-based organization that builds important bridges across sectors and between the grassroots and non-governmental organizations; and without an organization that annually convenes those members in a vibrant learning environment to build solidarity, give support, share challenges, strategize together and celebrate solutions – especially those emerging from low-income communities confronting structural barriers in defining their own systems and food ways. However, while I urge the CFSC board and staff to be as transparent as possible about what led to the decision to cease operations, I also want to call on my colleagues to capitalize on and perhaps redirect the energy that this state of affairs has produced.

I would encourage us to use this opportunity to reflect, as a movement, on the trajectory of our struggles and successes to radically transform the food system into one that is socially just.  What role has the CFSC played in bringing us to this point?  What do we have to celebrate?  What milestones have we reached along the way?  What was the coalition not able to accomplish?  What do we need now?  What kind of organization or cooperative, mobilizing body do we need to push us strategically forward and build power firmly rooted in the grassroots, given the changing political landscape, staggering diet-related health crisis and certain threat of climate change?

Can we find the time and space to sit together, reflect, envision, strategize and find ways to continue to build a broad-based movement? Organizations are not meant to be static and, as stewards of this movement, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to redefine what kind of organization will move us into the next phase of movement building.  By doing so we’re not burying the organizations that brought us to this point, we’re reinventing them to stay nimble, strategic, relevant and ultimately powerful.  We’re in this to win it.  Let’s roll up our sleeves, work together side by side, and commit to growing stronger and more powerful – into a force to truly be reckoned with.  Let’s start the dialogue in our own organizations and communities.  Then let’s weave those conversations together through our various convenings, blogs, publications and storytelling and start making the road ahead by walking it today.

What conversations are you having?  What new ideas are emerging from those dialogues?  What are the best ways forward for your communities and for our movement?  Post on the CFSC blog, on WhyHunger’s CONNECT blog here, the comfood listserv, the Growing Food and Jjustice listserv. Join the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance.  Then let’s convene at the Growing Power/Growing Food and Justice Gathering  in Milwaukee in early September and again at the Food + Justice = Democracy conference sponsored by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in late September.  There are immediate opportunities for us to come together and find a strategic way forward.  See you there!

Siena Chrisman