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by Gordon Jenkins
This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Monthly Food Channel

On Labor Day, people in nearly 300 cities and towns across America will gather in public places, sit down, and share a meal together. We will do it for two reasons: one personal, one political. The personal reason is that we love to cook and share food. Nourishing people, making them smile and momentarily making life good is something that we find deeply satisfying–and at potlucks, we share this feeling en masse.

The political reason to organize potlucks is actually the same motive. Potlucks bring people together. And people who come together in the spirit of goodwill and for the joy of sharing food are more likely to stand together when political push comes to shove. If you’re an organizer, potlucks can be one of your best agents of change: rather than goad people to name enemies and point fingers, you can gather them for something that they enjoy doing and that replenishes their will to fight. Potlucks are a ripe opportunity for inviting people who may not have sat at the same table together in the past and then celebrating what we all have in common: the need to eat and the need for support.

On Labor Day, the tens of thousands of us who will sit down together in public parks, on school grounds, at churches, and in front of City Halls will do it for an overtly political purpose: to tell Congress to stop giving our children food that hurts them. We’re calling these events “Eat-Ins,” because they’re part potluck, part sit-in. They are a launching-point of the Time for Lunch campaign, the goals of which are to give schools the ability to serve real food at lunch and to link local schools to local farms. The Eat-Ins that take place on Labor Day will rally support for the cause by organizing communities, getting some media attention and thereby sending a clear message to Congress: It’s time to provide America’s children with food that benefits their health, not food that makes them sick.

My colleagues and I organized the first Eat-In a year ago in San Francisco. The event brought together more than 250 young people, most of them fresh out of college. The day before, we had formed teams and piled into apartment kitchens across the city to cook up our favorite dishes. On Labor Day, the final day of the Slow Food Nation extravaganza, we showed up at Dolores Park armed with our dishes. We sat down on a grassy hill and we took turns rousing nearby sunbathers with rallying cries about our intention to take back the American food system in the name of everyday people. And then we sat down to eat.