By Jason Von Kundra from Sprouting Hope in Marion, VA

Bustling Farmers’ Markets, farm to table restaurants, boxes of organic vegetables delivered to your home; this has become the dominate face of our food movement. But is this model working for everyone? Who is being left out of the picture?

The double SNAP dollars and efforts for more fresh produce at food pantries, are getting more nutrient dense, healthy foods to the people that need it most. However if this is all we are doing, we fall short. “We ask for dignity, not for charity,” Pope Francis told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Humans have a “right to food, right to life and dignified existence.” I believe this dignity comes from harvesting your own food after a long day’s work. This dignity comes from having your voice respected. The time is now to give poor communities a place at the table, empowerment, and the opportunity to grow their own food.

Urban low income communities are giving a different face to our movement. New Roots in Louisville, KY is creating Fresh Stops where leaders from some of the poorest communities manage local CSAs that are based on your ability to pay. Will Allen in Milwaukee, WI is empowering folks from the inner city to grow an abundance of food in abandoned city lots and on rooftops.

The rural poor need a place in this movement too and Grow Appalachia understands that. John Paul DeJoria, who created and funds the program, was homeless when he co-founded Paul Mitchell. That humble background and his current philanthropy has taught me a lesson about what humanity really is and how our class should never influence the dignity we all deserve. New to the Grow Appalachia network, Sprouting Hope is focused on not only serving, but also empowering, low income communities to gain access to fresh, organic produce. People from across the socioeconomic spectrum come together as equals to grow their own food and donate much of what they grow to people in need that are unable to garden themselves.

As the high end market develops for organic, local, all natural, hormone-free, low-income-customer-free food, we must remember that all communities must be included in this movement for us to succeed. Cesar Chavez realized this when he did the impossible: organizing thousands of immigrant farm workers, poor and marginalized, to be a great force that has forever changed labor relations between farm owners and workers. What “I want more than anything else, I would like to see the poor take a very direct part in shaping society and let them make the decisions. And in our case, if the poor are not involved then change will never come.”