Conscientious Citizenship, on the Active Citizen Continuum, is defined by the examination of the root causes of social issues - here, we quickly find out that 1) the roots run deep - historically and systemically, and 2) many of them are connected. This can become a dark stage for people: while knowledge is power, it can also be a heavy burden; and in the work of social change, the feeling of powerlessness is an easy place to get trapped, but a dangerous one to remain.
At the Keene ABCs, we acknowledged that food systems are influenced by larger economic and political forces and, and in turn, the functions (or dysfunctions) of food systems impact four broad categories: communities, the Earth, producers, and consumers. Corporate consolidation is a common thread which affects each of these. Large companies are generally trying to gain as much capital as possible, as quickly as possible, with as few expenditures as possible - affecting the aforementioned categories in negative ways (for example, unjust wages and working conditions for farm workers).
Corporations are informed by millions of consumers, so as a single individual trying to resist something so large, that familiar sense of powerlessness begins to creep back in and we find ourselves frozen into inaction in the face of such an immense problem.
In the world of alternative breaks, we know stagnancy isn’t an option, and we believe, deeply, in the power of small groups. Like many social movements before our time, the food justice movement calls for individual, institutional, and societal changes in the way we produce, process, distribute, consume, and discard food. While expanding our own awareness of conscious consumption and "voting with our dollar" can be a start, individualistic approaches to fighting a broken food system will not create a lasting, structural difference.
In order to mobilize, we must find where we hold power in communities. On college campuses with dining facilities, the power we hold as consumers is much stronger, campus organizing is streamlined, and students’ voice and dollar directly influence the institution. The fraction of one in millions in the corporate world turns into an optimistic one in thousands (or less!) on a college campus.
To make the seemingly impossible task of resisting large forces that dominate our food systems and harm our communities, workers, and land - we looked to our friends at the Real Food Challenge (RFC) for realistic action steps to take on college campuses. If you're interested in creating a structural shift on your campus, we’d recommend you look to RFC to take meaningful action toward justice for the land and hands that caretake our food - from seed to plate and everything in between.