by Brandy Brooks
I’m in that odd middle generation composed of people who are both fully adept at social media and fully convinced that the young’uns are going to forget how to spell properly in another decade; so I admit that when I first heard the word “tweetup,” I may have had to hold back an eye-roll. What was this new addition to the Twitter lexicon, and how exactly were you supposed to use it – as a noun? as a verb? I wasn’t entirely sure … but Bing Broderick at Haley House Bakery Cafe seemed very excited about the idea, so I gamely signed on to help plan Roxtweet #4: Food Justice @ Food Day.
We’d both been inspired by a gathering in March of community food systems enthusiasts to talk about how we could make sure that food justice was highlighted in Food Day events around the Boston metro region. In their book, Food Justice, Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi say that “[f]ood justice seeks to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly. Food justice represents a transformation of the current food system, including but not limited to eliminating disparities and inequities.” (http://www.foodjusticebook.org/?page_id=6) Many of the organizations gathered that spring evening – including The Food Project where I’ve worked since last fall – have been addressing disparities and inequities our food system for years. Other attendees were new to Boston but eager to connect to others working for social justice in their new home.
That desire for connection was the idea behind our tweetup: we believed that if we kept bringing together food justice advocates under the banner of Food Day, we’d generate not only inspiring conversation, but also inspiring action this coming October. We hoped that the people and organizations we gathered again in July would connect with each other to create justice-focused Food Day events on and around October 24, 2012. We hoped for creative ideas that would challenge our assumptions about how the food system can and should work. Bing and I were thrilled to get everything we asked for, and more.
Our attendees shared their inspirations for growing food, from connections to family and the soil to the opportunity for a political statement. They asked how we move from policy and advocacy awareness to true citizen engagement, creating new conversations about our food system that are accessible and inviting for everyone. We were challenged by the simplest statements: the most powerful tool against hunger may be helping people to get comfortable cooking with fresh, whole ingredients. And we were challenged to expand our thinking about Food Day itself, as some attendees asked us to build stronger connections with World Food Day, an international day of action to alleviate hunger and food insecurity. We’re incredibly thankful to our partner organizations that facilitated these lively and thoughtful discussions – Boston Area Gleaners, Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, Grassroots International, Project Bread, the Real Food Challenge, and ReVision Urban Farm.
So what’s a tweetup? In my opinion, it’s a great way for social media to truly connect people – using the mass reach of a tool like Twitter to bring in new participants, but making sure that the end goal is the face-to-face contact that builds strong relationships. I’m reminded of something that Lilia Smelkova and Rose Arruda (our national and state Food Day organizers, respectively) said on that evening back in March: the goal of Food Day is not simply a series of events, but also a community working together for a more just and sustainable food system. I’m excited about the community building we did last month, and I look forward to connecting again with some wonderful new colleagues.
Brandy H. M. Brooks is the Director of Community Programs at The Food Project.