Philanthropy must go beyond charity to fund transformational food system change

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Photo Credit: Joel Muniz — via unsplash — @jmuniz

On October 22nd, the Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice urged members of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF) to go beyond charity and work toward transformational food system change through the first of a two-part webinar series titled: “We Can’t ‘Foodbank’ Our way Out of Hunger

Alison Cohen (Why Hunger), Joshua Lohnes (WVU Center for Resilient Communities), Robert Ojeda (Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona) and Shakara Tyler (Detroit Black Community Food Security Network) offered their thoughts on the limits of the current food banking model, its relationship to exploitative agro-industrial food systems and the need to go beyond charity to ensure the right to food.

A letter written by the alliance, and signed by over one hundred anti-hunger and food system practitioners, activist, and scholars, urges the philanthropic community to consider the following six key principles when approaching their investments in food access and food system development work:

  • reduce data collection demands, including monitoring and evaluation pressures, on front-line organizations serving those in need.
  • standardize data collection practices across public and private funding networks
  • projects led by people from Black, Indigenous and other historically marginalized and oppressed communities.
  • projects that abide by principles of democratic decision making.
  • projects that prioritize agroecology and climate justice.
  • projects that prioritize the equitable redistribution of wealth

The four panelists facilitated break-out conversations with participants about the limits and opportunities of implementing these principles in their work. While the majority of the participants resonated with the principles, they expressed a number of challenges ahead with implementation including:

  • Primary focus on immediate needs
  • Board resistance
  • The normalization of food assistance in society
  • Funder demands for quantitative impact models
  • Need to educate donors and funders on the root causes of hunger
  • Intimidating ideas for those in positions of privilege
  • Difficulty weaving the principles into formalized RFP process
  • Lack of trust-based models in philanthropic giving
  • Entrenched power structures in the philanthropic sector
  • Difficult to find opportunities to hear from impacted people and organizations
  • Intermediaries must often broker relationships between funders and organizations

SASFS is hosting a follow-up webinar on December 7th to continue this important conversation within the funder community. You can register for that event here.

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As we continue to work toward educating donors about the importance of moving away from traditional charitable food models toward transformational food system change, will you share this letter within your networks and continue the work of ensuring that we are collectively building a food future where everyone has the right to food with dignity? The letter is also available for circulation in Spanish and French.

We will continue to find opportunities to discuss these principles with funders in the months ahead, consider adding your signature to the growing number of allies engaging in this work. To sign the letter, complete the form below.

The Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health and Social Justice

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