Posted on May 30, 2020 by Fred Allebach
When I first arrived at Sonoma in 2006, I volunteered at La Luz for a food gift from the Charity-Redwood Bank Empire Food Bank on Friday. At first, I queued to get my own food, because I didn’t have a job. After a few times, I met Mario Castillo and he said, why don’t you volunteer? I do, for about a year. First I was a parking and traffic person, then I moved to the food line.
You would not think that such an operation had tensions, but La Luz staff constantly had to fix problems among volunteers about who wanted or didn’t want to do what. Everyone wants sauce and gratitude for sharing food; only a few want to hump and do the dirty work. Eventually, I started to get a job and moved away from free food.
A few years later in 2016, when I learned more about sustainability, I became very interested in the regional food system. It started as a combination of being on the food line, being aware of high food prices in Sonoma, and caring about equity. I am trying to improve my status as a commissioner in the city’s Community Services and Community Commission (CSEC), along with Chris Petlock, to reduce the costs of the Farmers Market manager on Tuesday in return for adding the benefits of Food Stamps to the public. We do this because it is in line with the 2014 city council resolution to support the district Food Action Plan, which has four pillars, one of which is social justice, and dignified access to affordable and affordable healthy food.
CSEC reduced costs in exchange for social goods shot by appeals by council member Gary Edwards with appeals upheld by the council vote 4 to 1 (Edwards, Hundley, Harrington, Agrimonti, with David Cook differing opinions). Eventually, CSEC’s core food justice motives, and alignment with the objectives of the city council, became obscured by many tangential issues regarding the market in general.
As far as I can see, things have not changed much in the Sonoma Valley in terms of equitable access to affordable healthy food. Prices are still a critical threshold for the poor, and prices have not gone down. Wages have not risen nearly enough.
Now, the C-19 crisis has raised the issue of social justice in the Valley. Important workers get crumbs for wages, living paychecks for paychecks, and do not have a pillow to shelter in place. Returning to work and reopening turned out to be a possible class-based death sentence. In all of this, food remains the most basic requirement. In this crisis, the Valley Food Task Force has worked hard and in good faith, but the government and non-profits remain cut off from disadvantaged communities at a fundamental level. Why? There are no POCs (people of color) in positions of authority. Advocating and dealing with equity problems is directly avoided. That’s all white people and white charity money running the show. A dependent paternalistic relationship is shown.
Since C-19, as a white person, I have struggled with the same tension, being very sympathetic and solidarity, but still has many features. I still operate under assumptions and worldviews that create many perceptions, and benefits. The class and race burden is not about me. How do you overcome this disconnection? Basically, I need to move and let the POC speak for themselves, and do whatever I can to make the POC institution a priority. This is not about my voice, feelings, or sensitivity. In human relationships, if you want to empower someone, give up the pretension to control, move away, and allow others to have their own voice and agency.
And when in history did any ruling class ever give up power and control just like that? About never. This is a power shift that is not easy. In fact, power may have to be requested and taken, not given, even during this critical C-19 transformation.
One of the big equity problems is the city fragmentation of city-Springs. The problem of representational unjust is proven here, because they were for me as a beginner in 2006. Too much power and resources in Sonoma, not enough in the spring. The recent city-district collaboration is a good sign. However, for the final match, we need one government here, with district elections, not two captains for the same ship. It is not right to separate class and race like they are here. Power difference is not right.
As for food, prices are still too high and prevent equitable access to healthy food. Prices go up on meat and milk as we speak. With the Food Task Force, the city has finally shown support for the 2014 Resolution, to support the Food Action Plan – but as a charity, not as a proactive step to support the pillars of FAP equality. Food is still a major part of the larger injustice puzzle in the Valley.
Enter Food For All. The FFA emphasizes grassroots institutions for under-represented. This is a small but important step towards self-determination Springs Latino / POC. The status quo is still too satisfied, and all are adept at finding all the reasons why not to share political power. If we are at a critical transition point, and the status quo actors will not really change, what is left for the underrepresented is to seize power in any way they can. Hopefully, the FFA will be the start of the actual district representation, just as I talked with Mario about the food line 14 years ago.
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