Here are a few highlights of our two-part series Civic Engagement Strategies to Advance Food Systems Change. Part I on February 16, was “A Primer with PACE,” co-hosted with Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. Part II on March 16 was “Diving Deeper with FCCP,” co-hosted with Funders Committee for Civic Participation. We encourage to take advantage of the recordings for the full benefit of the expertise shared by our co-hosts, as well as the experiences of agriculture, food, and health funders incorporating civic engagement in their work.
To open the February 16 webinar, Kristen Cambell of PACE took participants through possible definitions of democracy and civic engagement, as well as some flash polls to gauge the group’s understanding and use of these terms.
Esperanza Pallana of Food and Farm Communications Fund described their multi-year process of shifting to community control of grantmaking capital as a key part of their work in reclaiming democracy. “We see community-led processes as a critical form of civic engagement as civic engagement starts with the belief that your voice and your actions matter.”
Through the Food Sovereignty Fund at Panta Rhea Foundation, Anna Lappe has been able to support civic engagement in several ways. “We are definitely about change, not charity, and . . . that has often meant funding groups engaging in civic participation.” That includes political leadership development, advocacy for public food procurement policies, and connecting state legislators to trusted movement partners to support progressive food and agriculture policy.
FCCP’s Paul Ryan kicked off the March 16 conversation by noting that civic engagement is the “motor that drives change regardless of the policy area” you support.
David Martinez III, of Arizona’s Vitalyst Health Foundation, shared their approach to supporting “civic health,” based on the idea that civic engagement improves measurable health outcomes and is also the means to building healthier policy outcomes. “When healthy people are involved in our democracy, our democracy is healthier.”
Connecting directly to food funders, Josh Ewing of Rural Climate Partnership, said “There is no path to fixing our food system that doesn’t involve civic engagement.” He noted that organizing in rural communities around direct-impact issues like the effect of CAFO pollution on local water quality or pipelines running through farmland is often the entry point to continued engagement in democratic processes.