Listen to Women Leaders at the Table: Addressing Inequity in the Good Food Movement:
A farmer, a restaurant owner, a labor supporter and a public-health community advocate walk into a room over a bar...and they're greeted like rock stars by a sold-out crowd. This was the scene at the Swedish American Hall on Monday night, August 15, when San Francisco's Commonwealth Club presented Women Leaders at the Table: Addressing Inequity in the Good Food Movement.
When Cathy Curtis, the organizer of the Commonwealth Club's Food Matters program (formerly Bay Gourmet), began to put together a panel of women of color to address issues of inequity and race in the good-food movement, she had no idea it would draw such a crowd. Initially, the panel was set to take place in a small meeting room within the club, but once posted, the event sold out almost immediately, and Curtis and the panel's moderator, Shakirah Simley, were flooded with emails begging them to shift the event to a larger venue. After a last-minute scramble, the Ne Timeas restaurant group, which owns Aatxe in the Swedish American Hall (as well as Cafe du Nord next door), offered free use of the hall's large meeting room upstairs. Civil Eats offered media support; CUESA pulled in volunteers; Bi-Rite Market donated wine and sandwiches for the post-meeting reception.
By 7pm, the room was filled to capacity. This was not a meeting preaching the hazards of Big Food or Big Ag to the already-converted (although there were plenty of finger-snapping moments of approval), but rather an insightful dissection of some of the assumptions and privileges within the movement for "good, clean, fair" food, from the racial complications of soda taxes to the implications, benefits, and repercussions of direct action, from Black Brunch to the push for higher minimum wages across the state.
On the panel were Joanne Lo, co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance and chair of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council; Brittni Chicuata, government relations director for the Bay Area chapters of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association; Kristyn Leach, farmer at Namu Farm; and Dominica Rice Cisneros, owner of Cosecha Cafe in Oakland, with moderator Shakirah Simley, founder of the preserving company Slow Jams and now community programs manager (and canner-in-residence) for Bi-Rite.