What is food sovereignty?

Food sovereignty is the next step beyond food security that includes people determining their own food or agriculture policy, and being able to choose food that they want.

Food sovereignty is the right of people to determine their own food or agriculture policy as opposed to one-size-fits-all or larger entities deciding the food policy. According to Michigan State University Extension, food sovereignty is the next step beyond food security; it is about being able to choose food that is fresh, healthy and culturally-appropriate, and food that was produced in a sustainable manner. Other characteristics of food sovereignty include a focus on food for people as opposed to food produced primarily for markets or large commercial interests. There is also an emphasis on local control of food and food policy decisions.

The concept of food sovereignty was the central theme of the keynote speaker Diego Angarita at the Everybody Eats: Cultivating Food Democracy conference held on February 23, 2013 at Trinity Church in Lansing, Mich. Angarita works as the Assistant Executive Director for Nuestras Raices (“Our Roots”), an organization in Holyoke, Mass. that has a network of 10 community gardens and a 30-acre inner city farm that focuses on food systems, economic development and agriculture.

Angarita described the Nuestras Raices vision of food sovereignty as the Puerto Rican community in Holyoke as starting with one garden in 1991 to eventually scaling up to a farming business that includes a Beginner Farmer Training Program and an agri-tourism component where everything looks like Puerto Rico. There are now over 100 families involved in their network of community gardens that grow their own food including many crops from Puerto Rico.

Nuestras Raices recently worked with the University of Massachusetts to acclimatize sweet peppers from Puerto Rico that the Holyoke growers use to make a base sauce in Latin American cooking called sofrito. These are good examples of how the Nuestra Raices growers have determined how to achieve their own food sovereignty by developing their own unique food system. 

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