By Equity, Inclusion and Justice Strategist Dan Mueller
A couple of months ago, I set out to celebrate Slow Food USA’s (SFUSA) equity, inclusion and justice (EIJ) journey. I was hoping to highlight the ways we are working to become a food justice organization and include voices from the leaders who helped launch these efforts years before my hiring to staff. Of course, no journey is complete without its lowlights, and to reflect honestly requires grappling with the pits in order to authentically honor the peaks.
Slow Food USA has been working on itself; over the last six years, we have deepened our commitment to EIJ by reimagining organizational processes, developing network resources, and aligning our work within the broader movement for Food Justice. This turn inward was much-needed, as some reflection with former EIJ Working Group members revealed lingering frustrations with Slow Food USA’s initial lack of engagement with the group and its mission to bring equity to the forefront of our network’s efforts.
Long time leader Charity Kenyon shared that “the process of getting Slow Food USA board support for the [EIJ] Manifesto was not smooth. There was some defensiveness and also some disagreement whether EIJ was as critical to the Slow Food mission as our working group thought.”
Dan Mueller speaking at a panel at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy, in September 2022
As I shared with Charity that my hopes for reconnecting with former EIJ Working Group members to collect accounts of our EIJ history included repairing relationships, she stressed that “repair should be a primary focus.”
After talking with Charity and digging through the Slow Food USA archives, I compiled an anthology of our successes and titled it Becoming a Food Justice Organization: Our Journey of Equity, Inclusion & Justice (EIJ). In it, I speak briefly about the adventure ahead–a road that will undoubtedly entail deep, personal reflection and change, engaging our communities in an equitable and accessible way, and disrupting the larger systems that maintain the status quo.
Yet any good contemplation should result in more questions than answers. Questions like: how do we deeply engage with a diversity of people while wholly honoring our differences? What is expected of Black and Indigenous and People of Color and the LGBTQ2S+ community within a volunteer-led network? Who can we collaborate with and support through radical acts of solidarity? Why does the quest for liberation and sovereignty matter more now than ever before?
I would like to think initiatives like our BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ affinity groups create spaces for us to center our collective wisdom and generate curious responses to these essential questions. At the same time, I hope our forward strides are boundless and expansive. It is only as we weave this fabric of community that holds us in gentle accountability, that we will be able to weather the next leg of our journey — a journey that brings us closer to a delicious, compassionate future.
As a movement, we are now being called to vision beyond our wildest dreams and to trek boldly into the unknown. For Slow Food USA, our pathway will be illuminated by our Theory of Change and the sparks ignited by the burning passions of our network leaders. It will require uncomfortable conversations and addressing past harms, but it will also entail nourishing experiences and deeply joyful encounters. Together, we will continue our pursuit of food justice, pushing boundaries, centering radical belonging and striving for a more equitable and just world.