HEALing Together: Report Back from HEAL Food Alliance’s 2nd Annual Summit

by Tanya Kerssen and Christina Bronsing-Lazalde

Our food system needs radical transformation. It also needs healing from a long history of oppression and exploitation. This healing can only happen if we create spaces for honest conversation, trust, and relationship-building across the food chain. That’s what makes HEAL Food Alliance—a multi-sector, multi-racial coalition building collective power—so special.

Christina and Tanya—a.k.a. Real Food Media’s official (unofficial) Midwest Contingent—had the honor of participating in HEAL’s 2nd Annual Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, last month. As the hotel lobby began buzzing with energy and heartfelt hugs, it felt like a family reunion descended on Cleveland. We were just plain giddy to connect with so many of our partners including Good Food Purchasing Program coalitions from around the country, the Center for Good Food Purchasing, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, and fabulous Real Food Media advisors Neshani Jani, Dara Cooper, and Anim Steel. (Little did we know, Dara, co-founder of the Black Food & Justice Alliance, would soon be awarded the James Beard Leadership Award—congrats Dara!)

This year’s theme was Good Food Rising! and it was in full effect. This was authentic movement-building: issues framed by community leaders; stories of both trauma and triumph; and delicious, real food. (A big shout out to Rid-All Green Partnership, a 26-acre farm and education center in Cleveland’s Lee-Miles neighborhood, for providing us with such lovingly prepared food and an inspiring—if a bit chilly!—farm tour.) 

Perhaps most powerful? Naming names. As many participants noted, there are few “food” spaces where words like capitalism and white supremacy are used without apology. Where land reform is a banner struggle. And where the prison-industrial complex is called out for its role in perpetuating a violent food system and foreclosing community-based alternatives. And as both a grounding and a reminder of our collective history, there was the 80-foot-long food justice timeline created by Minneapolis organizers and shipped to the Summit for participants to interact with.

Needless to say, we came away with a lot to think about—and work on—to better support this growing movement of movements. 

Follow HEAL Food Alliance on Facebook and Twitter check out more photos from the Summit. HEAL is now on Instagram too!