Putting Food Sovereignty on the Table
In early December, Crossroads hosted a roundtable discussion on behalf of US Representatives Jamie Raskin and James McGovern, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, centered around food insecurity, culturally appropriate food choices, and food business entrepreneurship. Following a tour of the TPSS Community Kitchen, Jalapeño Mexican Grill prepared lunch. Representative Raskin and Chairman McGovern then led a roundtable discussion of different approaches to fostering local food system resiliency and food sovereignty, which calls for a more equitable food system where those who produce and eat food also control the policies and processes governing food production and distribution. Other panelists included County Executive Marc Elrich, City of Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart and Councilperson Peter Kovar, Michael J. Wilson of Maryland Hunger Solutions, Jackie DeCarlo of Manna Food Center, Vanessa Pierre of Homestead Hustle & Healing, Heather Bruskin of the Montgomery County Food Council, SNAP advocate Camilla Pinares, Kenneth Oldman of United Way of Frederick County, and Crossroads’ Community Kitchen Program Manager, Ivie Baker.
The event at Crossroads was the last of three stops on Raskin and McGovern’s Maryland District 8 Food System Resiliency Tour. They began at Manna Choice Market in Silver Spring, then visited an aeroponic community garden managed by Clifton Park Baptist Church and Impact Silver Spring and funded in part by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. All three initiatives represent innovative models for connecting those experiencing food insecurity with the culturally relevant, affordable, and healthy foods they want by centering individual choice. Manna Food Center, Montgomery County’s largest food assistance organization, primarily distributes food to community members in need. At Manna Choice Market, people choose the food items they want to take home, shifting the food bank model and ensuring dignity throughout the process. Clifton Park Baptist Church serves 1,500+ families weekly with the kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and other foods grown year-round on 24 low-maintenance towers at their indoor aeroponic garden. There are also plans to put smaller tabletop towers in individual homes. For the past 15 years, Crossroads has employed a choice-based model to reduce food insecurity by connecting shoppers directly with farmers at Crossroads Farmers Market and matching SNAP and other federal nutrition benefits to increase buying power. And with the TPSS Community Kitchen and related microenterprise programming, Crossroads provides small-scale food entrepreneurs with business support and an affordable means of production.
Raskin, also a member of the House Rules Committee, and McGovern hope to convince President Joe Biden to convene a conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health. “Let’s make ending hunger a top priority for American democracy,” Raskin said. “For years, Rep. Jim McGovern has worked to do that with a national hunger conference. With bipartisan support in Congress and an administration dedicated to the common good, it’s time to make it happen.”