Our Executive Director, Martin Bourque, is sharing this message with our community of friends and supporters this month. We are honored to be a part of this community, to share this vision and to work toward a more healthy and just future.
The winter holidays are advertised as a time of abundance: shopping carts full of gifts, tables laden with food. Against this made-for-TV backdrop, the Recovery Act’s boost to SNAP, the federal food stamp program, ended in November, cutting $5 billion of food benefits from the neediest families. Republicans in the House want to strip SNAP from the Farm Bill altogether.
The Ecology Center has a much better idea. Instead of dropping millions of families deeper into poverty, food insecurity, and the diseases that accompany it, how about creating a food system that supports healthy ecosystems, thriving small farms, vibrant local economies, and healthy food for everyone?
We began running farmers’ markets 1987, driven by the desire to establish an alternative food system that rewarded farmers for environmental responsibility, conservation, and stewardship. Over time, the social justice aspect of food access became increasingly central to our work.
Today, the Ecology Center’s approach to changing the food system includes markets, produce stands, community education, pilot projects, partnerships, coalitions, policy creation and advocacy, and youth training. No one approach to expanding healthy food access is sufficient.
Access to healthy food should not be exclusive. Our food system should not leave out the rural community members working hard to grow food, nor the urban consumers struggling to make ends meet. People in the US should not have to choose between eating healthily and paying the rent.
The Ecology Center strives to be the kind of organization that honors our member’s desires for both immediate impact and movement building. We are doing that by:
- Creating and sustaining infrastructure like farmers’ markets, produce stands, EBT systems for farmers’ markets, and food assistance incentive programs that make healthy food affordable for more people.
- Cultivating young leaders who will expand the food justice movement to new faces and new places.
- Forming strong partnerships across the City, state, and nation to promote policies that support our vision of resilient, just, food systems and healthy food access.
Like you, I want to make an impact in the community where I live and work every day. I want to be able to see, feel, and experience the change to which I am contributing.
From our farmers’ markets to the Food Policy Council to local campaigns to maximize urban agriculture, the Ecology Center is actively making Berkeley and the East Bay a better place. But we are also, by design, affecting change on a larger scale.
We are leading Market Match – a program that incentivizes California food stamp recipients to spend their benefits on local produce at farmers’ markets. We’re teaming up with partners to fight cuts to SNAP and include programs like Market Match in the Farm Bill. We’re trying to change the landscape so that food assistance dollars support farmers, not companies like Walmart and Con Agra, where most food stamp dollars end up.
The stock market may have recovered from the recession, but most people are working longer and harder if they are working at all. This is a time of unprecedented plenty and need. We need your help: let’s remake our food system so that it generates health, not just wealth for the 1%. Please give to the Ecology Center today!
P.S. I also had the chance to record a video of our work with the Giving Library, an online archive that connects donors with non-profits. Check it out: