The history of produce has always been one of much contestation, originating from the first disastrous fruit exchange between Adam and Eve. This set the stage for a history of dissatisfied customers, a constant power struggle between landowners and the seed sowers, and ultimately the haves and the have-nots. Adam wanted an apple; he got humility. Marie Antoinette’s public wanted bread; she threw them cake. There was the whole fiasco in Boston over tea, and the shameful acceptance of slave labour as seasonal harvesters in North America.
Have we progressed? Today the workers of the world can have their bread and eat it too, but it no longer tastes like justice. The bittersweet aftertaste of GMOs and artificial preservatives are a subtle reminder that we’re still being denied a fundamental right: to maintain a healthy, wholesome diet regardless of income, as the world continues to produce an excess of food for consumers every year.
What does our body need to survive? Grassroots movements have been springing up all across the nation promoting alternative diets, food sources, and healthy diets for a small planet to encourage us not only to consider what foods we put in our stomachs, but the global impact of our diets.
The Community Carrot
“We like to say that the People’s Potato stole our name, and that’s how we ended up being the Community Carrot.” Cal admits jokingly, referring to the Concordia University volunteer group who provides daily vegan meal to approximately 400 students. Another Community Carrot member catches onto the joke and joins in.
“We were either going to be the Local Leeks or the Radical Rutabagas,” Viktoryah (pronounced Victoria) confesses before breaking out into laughter. A relatively new group at the University of Guelph, the Community Carrot emerged as a response to a member’s profound dissatisfaction with the way society’s food production and distribution systems worked, believing that access to healthy food is a fundamental right.
Once a week ‘feedings’ are organized on campus, where volunteers makes soups and plates with vegetables donated from local organic farms and drop-off boxes. The meals are provided at a ‘pay what you can’ rate, and encourages healthy alternative meals.
“We were trying to be like Food not Bombs, but we were more like petty thieves,” says Cal, “We were bandits, a group of people who had no food, and who wanted to work out a system that went beyond robbing convenient stores for bread and dumpster diving. And that’s when the invasion came in.”
During World Vegan Day, as a bunch of individuals offered healthy alternatives to meat in front of a local McDonald’s as a part of the Meat-Out action; the group went from exchanging food and tips into a group who met with more of a community and student focus. Since the summer of 2002, support and membership for the group has grown and has become the only organization, other than Hospitality Services, that is allowed to serve food on the university campus.
The Community Carrot has been challenged by the University Administration, who has insisted upon paper work and registrations, spinning a web of red tape which usually discourages students from taking initiative on their campuses. Emily, another member, recounts that part of the success of the Community Carrot has been to persistently stay open and to ignore the administration’s threats.
“The administration doesn’t have power, and shutting us down means that they are their false authority.” explains Cal, before adding with a laugh, “They could kick you out of school, but that’ll only be a boon for you.” Exercise
“We’re not ‘in your face’ about politics,” explains Emily, acknowledging that the Carrot’s members come from different political backgrounds. The points of unity that describe the group’s members simply list that they reject the capitalist system that treats food as a commodity available only to those with the means to pay. The Community Carrot demonstrates ‘a simple and positive alternative to the current system’.
“You, too, can scare your administration!” Cal says, encouraging students to challenge the authorities on their campuses. Many universities across Canada continue to have inadequate alternative food supplies, but the members of the Community Carrot rest assured that members of most communities would embrace bandits-turned-chefs that transform discarded vegetables into delicious soup.
“People like to get food, and that seems to support us.”