> Wallace Center Announces Support for Equitable Food Oriented Development Through Regional Food Economies Fellows Program

October 2019

The Wallace Center at Winrock International is pleased to announce its second cohort of Regional Food Economies Fellows which will focus on the emerging practice of Equitable Food Oriented Development (EFOD). The selected Fellows are recognized leaders in their own organizations and communities as well as nationally and are pursuing inclusive development that uses food and agriculture to create economic opportunities, healthy neighborhoods, and explicitly seeks to build community assets, pride, and power by and with historically marginalized communities.  

The Equitable Food Oriented Development (EFOD) Fellows include:

Lorena Andrade, Director, La Mujer Obrera, El Paso, TX, @mujerobrera

The mission of La Mujer Obrera is to develop and use their creative capacity to express the dignity and diversity of their Mexican heritage, from indigenous Mesoamerican roots to contemporary expressions, and to develop and celebrate their community through economic development, community building, community health and civic engagement.

Mariela Cedeno, Interim Exec. Director, Mandela Partners, Oakland, CA @mandelapartners

Mandela Partners, formerly Mandela MarketPlace, is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with local residents, family farmers, and community-based businesses to improve health, create wealth, and build assets through local food enterprises in low-income communities.

Neelam Sharma, Director, Community Services Unlimited, Los Angeles, CA @CSUINC

Community Services Unlimited Inc. (CSU), is a 501c3 established in 1977 and headquartered in South Central Los Angeles, committed to supporting and creating justice-driven community-based programs and educational initiatives, which seek to foster dialogue, and create awareness and critical consciousness.

The Fellows are an integral part of a national collaborative effort to further develop EFOD as a strategy and practice, spearheaded by a practitioner-led Steering Committee and supported by allies from local and national organizations including DAISA Enterprises and the Wallace Center.  The Fellows will develop new resources, best practices, and lessons learned that the Wallace Center and partners in the collaboration will share with the broader audience of food systems practitioners and funders to drive further support for EFOD and spur replication and adaptation of this approach in more communities. For more information about EFOD, please visit www.efod.org

EFOD emerged from the frustration felt by long term practitioners in the food justice field that our successful but nascent work to make systemic shifts in the health and wealth of oppressed communities was being co-opted into expensive temporary projects with little thought to lasting or sustainable impact and furthermore that industry evaluation measures are not capturing the depth and breadth of what we do. My work as a fellow is centered on illuminating the many ways in which the work that grass roots agencies do is tied deeply to community within a framework of historical context and current reality. Our hope is that this work will help to define how the impact of the holistic approach we adopt can in fact begin to be captured and leveraged to place more resources where they will be most effective.

--Neelam Sharma, EFOD Fellow

Fellows receive twelve months of financial and technical support to help them as they develop, define and share this area of practice. The Fellows’ past and ongoing work offers models for successful engagement between regional food and agriculture systems and development audiences including regional planning, investment and finance, public health, and local government agencies. The Kresge Foundation funded the inaugural cohort of The Wallace Center’s Regional Food Economies Fellowship and the EFOD Fellows cohort is funded by the NoVo Foundation.

As a practitioner-led collaborative, it is important for us to find partners that can amplify the voice of leadership driving people-first community development. As Regional Food Economies Fellows I hope that we will be able to grow the field of supporters and practitioners that will continue to advance, uplift, and institutionalize Equitable Food Development strategies.

--Mariela, Cedeno, EFOD Fellow

The Wallace Center at Winrock International is a national nonprofit that develops partnerships, pilots new ideas, and advances solutions to strengthen communities through resilient farming and food systems. Wallace has worked to develop healthy regional food and farming systems for over 35 years, seeking to expand the positive environmental, social, and economic benefits of regional, sustainably produced food. Through our programs and leadership, we seek to affect systems change that brings benefits to the environment, to communities, and to the farmers and food businesses that are the building blocks of a healthy and equitable food system. For more information about Wallace Center or the Regional Economies Fellowship program, please contact Natilee McGruder at Natilee.McGruder@Winrock.org


> Save the Date! 2020 National Good Food Network Conference


The Wallace Center is excited to announce that we’ll be hosting our 2020 National Good Food Network Conference in New Orleans, March 10-13, 2020.

Learn more on the conference page!

Since 2012, the Wallace Center has been convening leaders from across the good food movement for a comprehensive, practitioner-driven conference to share inspirational ideas, build professional connections, and learn practical skills and innovative approaches for creating resilient and inclusive food systems.

At the 2020 NGFN Conference we are looking to take food systems change and movement building to the next level.

We will take stock of our progress as a movement and look ahead to the future as we seek to break down silos and build collaborative systems-level solutions to answer some of the greatest challenges of our time. Leaders from across the country will gather in New Orleans, LA to recognize and consider the successes and challenges, critically and honestly evaluate current efforts and roadblocks, assess where different approaches need to be taken, and discuss emerging opportunities and challenges we need to prepare for.

Together, we will reflect on where we have been, appreciate gains and impacts, and chart the course for the next ten years of a more healthy, equitable and resilient food system.

With a renewed focus on equity and community development, the 2020 NGFN Conference will expand on the success of previous Conferences and continue to build the capacity of food systems leaders and organizations and inspire innovation through engaging presentations, trainings, networking, and peer-learning opportunities.

We are excited to be partnering with New Orleans-based non-profit Propeller to explore, highlight, and connect with the rich and dynamic food culture of the region throughout the 2020 Conference.

Learn more on the conference page!

> Wallace Center Director Dr. John Fisk's Opening Remarks - 2018 National Good Food Network Conference

The following speech was delivered to about 450 people to open the 2018 National Good Food Network Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We at the Wallace Center, like many others, understand that the problems we are faced with today in our food system are complex, interconnected, and urgent. So then, must be the solutions to meet them, the alternatives that all of us here today are trying to build. Since 1983 Wallace Center has striven to be an organization that catalyzes systems-level change. We recognize – now more than ever – that the time to protect our environment is too limited and the consequences to our communities too dire, for us to keep pace by merely addressing symptoms.

If we are going to create change on a scale large enough to face the obstacles before us, we must get right to the heart of the issues. That means examining the forces that got us where we are today. 

The origins of our current industrial food system can be found, not just in the pursuit of food security and feeding of the world, but also in the consolidation and inequitable distribution of economic and political power, land, and resources, going back centuries: a legacy that includes stolen land, lives, and labor. And it is present today here and across the country, in our federal policies, and in the astonishing consolidation of money, power and control over the very things that give us life – our soil, our water, our labor, the food we eat every day. 

A call to racial justice might be a new conversation for some of us, but it is a lived experience for many in this room. It is a thread woven into every piece of our work, from the people who own the land, to the people who work it, to those who prepare and serve it, to food itself. This thread is so deeply ingrained in our national fabric that pulling it out can feel uncomfortable, frustrating, or even threatening. But as organizations working in this space, we have the responsibility to use our privilege to move this work forward. 

Ask yourself, what called you to this work? Why food and farming systems? …. We know that when we talk about local and regional food systems, we are talking about more than farms, food hubs, and supply chains. We came to this work because we believe that food systems offer a lens through which we can view the intersection of so many seemingly diverse issues – the environment, economic development, public health, community vitality, social justice. 

We came to this work because we believe that food systems can be a lever of change across all of these areas. That through this work we can not only create an alternative to the industrial food system; we can fundamentally affect how we distribute wealth and opportunity, foster health, and create connectivity in our communities. 

I believe in that idea, that food, as humble, as basic as it might sound to some, does have the power to affect that kind of change. The food system has that power because it affects, and is affected by, virtually every other economic, political and social system in this country. Without working to address these larger, underlying currents, we will never achieve the kind of sea change we seek. Without applying a systems-level lens to the problems we face, all our programs and projects and interventions can end up being inadequate and in fact more harmful than helpful, more exclusive than inclusive. 

It’s clear to me that we can no longer afford to rest upon the values implied by our work or the words we have historically used to describe it. If we are truly committed to our values then we need to be explicit in this commitment and be more mindful of our words and actions. Too often, we fail to name racism as the great, pernicious weed in our midst, but in doing that we preserve only the status quo and our own comfort. The past few years have made it abundantly clear that structural racism and inequity continues to pollute – and in many ways control - our policies, our economies, and our culture. Our food system is no exception. 

For a number of years, Wallace Center has focused on issues related to value chains and the environment - increasing the impact of locally and regionally-sourced, sustainably-produced food. And while we are proud to have made great strides in those areas, I must admit candidly, humbly, that addressing racial inequity in the food system hasn’t been the focus of my work, of Wallace Center’s work, or of past NGFN conferences. 

But if we are trying to foster system-wide change, then it must be. Explicitly. Intentionally. Proactively. 

For many of us, myself included, that means de-centering our own narratives, de-emphasizing our own heroism, to uplift leaders from marginalized communities. The Wallace Center has a powerful voice, but we need to start this work by listening.

We at the Wallace Center are making the commitment to do this work, and to fostering solutions to address inequity and injustice across the value chain. We have made an intentional effort to bring a racial equity framework to this year’s conference through the selection of sessions and speakers that focus explicitly on racial equity and inclusion. This is not a one-shot deal, but a step towards deepening our own organizational commitment and to integrating it into all of our work. 

If talking about race here makes you uncomfortable, that’s understandable. It makes me uncomfortable! And admitting that is a fine first step.

The underlying rationale for this conference is the understanding that we all have so much to learn from each other. There are many leaders and organizations here in this room that are leading these efforts and have been for some time.  For example; La Semilla Food Center, Community Foodworks, The Common Market, Corbin Hill Food Project, Agricultura Cooperative Network, Valley Verde and many more. 

They have wisdom, resources, and unique perspectives to share. We seek guidance and direction from these leaders as Wallace Center begins a long-term process of centering equity into our programs, policies and culture. Here at the conference we want to amplify their voices. Many are holding workshops and sessions over the course of the next few days. I urge you to attend their sessions, and to seek out their ideas and input. 

While we are together these next few days, I challenge you to explore how we can work together to create holistic solutions for a healthier and more equitable system for us all. 

And if any of these topics make you uncomfortable, or you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, relax: you will say the wrong thing. And then someone will kindly correct you, because we’re all here to learn and we’re all here in good faith. So today let’s commit to moving forward. With great care, yes, but without fear. 

And, as part of this, we invite you to accept the challenge, the Racial Equity 21 Day Challenge. The Racial Equity Challenge, created and led by Food Solutions New England, offers dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits.  We're tremendously excited about this concept, and we encourage you to use it a jumping-off point personally and for your organization. 

> Equity Trainer Request for Proposals

The Wallace Center, a national nonprofit working in sustainable food systems, seeks a facilitator to codesign and facilitate a 1.5 – 2-day racial equity training for its staff. This training will take place the week of September 10th, 2018 in our Arlington, VA office, for a group of about 15 participants. We seek a trainer, or co-trainers, to help us develop a shared understanding and language around racial equity in general and as it relates to our work in food systems. We seek processes, practices, and tools for integrating a lens of racial equity into our programs, policies and culture, and would like, as an outcome of this training, to develop a roadmap for implementation, strengthening and building on priorities developed in a previous staff retreat.

Full RFP and submission details