Audrey Sasson

Posts by Audrey:

The Secret to Building Support for Food Aid Reform: AJWS Activists

It’s not every day you get to personally thank your member of Congress for advancing the issues you care about. But over the past few months, AJWS supporters from across the country have been knocking on their representatives’ doors to deliver framed certificates to members of Congress who have stood up for international food aid reform – and, by extension, for the rights of AJWS’s partners in the developing world.

Thanks to the tireless work of these activists, food aid reform has changed from an “if”… to a “when” and “how.”


An Historic Vote

On June 19, 2013, the House of Representatives held an historic vote to reform the way the U.S. manages and delivers international food aid. As part of the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) Farm Bill deliberations, Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced a bi-partisan amendment to build greater flexibility in our system, purchase food locally, when available, instead of shipping food overseas. This bill would enable 4 million more people to receive the food they need— faster, more sustainably and without spending an extra dime.

AJWS activists had been building toward a vote on this bill for many moons. Over the last two years, AJWS supporters have cultivated relationships with their members of Congress through e-actions, hand-written letters, in-district meetings, targeted op-eds and letters to the editor, and monthly national calls to stay on top of the issue and take strategic action as needed. They even traveled to DC—twice—for a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. They have used every platform at their disposal to express their commitment to global justice and to make the case for international food aid reform.

On June 19th, we lost the vote for reform by a narrow margin. Nonetheless, AJWS activists saw much of their hard work bear fruit. As someone who has been involved in organizing for more than a decade, watching the House debate and vote on the issue was incredibly moving. Had you polled Congress six months earlier, it’s very unlikely that anyone would have predicted, 1) an actual debate on the House floor on the issue (it had never made it that far previously), 2) members of Congress (most of whom AJWS had been in contact with) making passionate arguments reflective of the position that AJWS activists have been articulating for 2 years, and 3) a vote so close, with strong support from both parties, that experts are now calling food aid reform ‘inevitable’ (we lost be a mere nine votes). In other words, AJWS activists and our allies moved the discourse from ‘if’ food aid reform should happen to ‘when and how’ it would happen—no small feat!

AJWS activists know that to keep fighting the good fight, in solidarity with our partners in the developing world, it is critical to keep flexing our civic muscles and cultivating ongoing relationships with our elected representatives. Doing so means that when the next vote comes, whether it’s on the issue of food aid reform or any of the other important human rights issues confronting our partners on a daily basis, we’ll be even better positioned to make an impact as a Jewish community working for global justice.

To get a taste of our work, check out some of the great photos above, featuring activists who are mobilizing their communities in NY and LA, Boston and San Francisco! We’re excited to continue building our power as a community that makes meaningful, lasting change—together. If you’d like to get involved in our efforts, please email us at getinvolved@ajws.org.

Audrey Sasson is a senior organizer at American Jewish World Service.

Posted in Food Justice, Human Rights | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Fruits of Our Labor: Achieving the Impossible

Originally posted on Kindle Project and the Pursue blog.

Those of us involved in social change efforts may be all too familiar with the refrain, “the impossible will take a little while.” We’re encouraged to have patience and we’re expected to brace ourselves for the reality that we may not be around to see the fruits of our activist labor. We plug along regardless because we’re assured that our righteous efforts against seemingly insurmountable odds will one day tip the balance in favor of the good and the just.

And yet, every once in a very long while, we are privileged to actually witness the balance shifting. Read More »

Posted in Change-Makers, Sustainable Solutions, Take Action | 1 Comment

Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice

I recently attended an event promoting Eric Holt-Giménez’s new book (co-authored by Raj Patel), Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice. Eric is the executive director of Food First and a powerful advocate for transforming our broken food system. His presentation unpacked the causes of hunger worldwide and promoted a reinvestment in local food systems as both a just and effective solution.

Eric began by outlining the rise of the industrial food system, starting with how the Green Revolution of the 1960s displaced local food systems and imposed an industrial model of food production from the North to the Global South. With the rise of Structural Adjustment Programs in the 1980s and what he dubbed “Free trade mania” in the 1990s, local food systems worldwide have been compromised and abandoned. The results? Countries in the Global South used to produce $1 billion in food surplus. Today, those same countries have an $11 billion food deficit.

One of the more illuminating moments for me came when Eric described the process by which the UN published the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The biggest study of its kind ever conducted, the IAASTD was published in 2008 and was meant to put corporate agriculture at ease by proving that the industrial model, including widespread use of GMOs, can and does effectively feed the world. Instead, the study concluded that small-scale farmers and organic, agro-ecological methods are the way forward to solve the current food crisis and meet the needs of local communities.

Eric made a strong case for fighting poverty through rebuilding local food economies and he pointed to the food sovereignty movement as paving the way. Interestingly, he connected the fight for food sovereignty worldwide to local food justice efforts here in the United States and elsewhere. The explosion in CSAs, school gardens, urban farms in low-income communities – to name a few – is part and parcel of the effort to reclaim control over our global food system and intentionally participate in a more just and sustainable model.

I haven’t read his book yet, but if it’s anything like the talk he gave I’m sure it’ll inspire. You can find out more on the Food First website. And if you’re looking for ways to plug into food justice efforts in New York, check out the AJWS-AVODAH Partnership’s new initiative, the Brooklyn Bridge CSA!

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