The Occupy San Francisco encampment was receiving so many food donations last week, they had to turn generous people away. Across the nation companies, organizations and individuals have shown their support for the Occupy movement by contributing supplies to the camps of people who now occupy public zones in reportedly more than 1,000 U.S. cities. These citizens are not merely erecting tents and staying the night, however: there is incredible organization going into the demonstrations. Many encampments have their own first aid tents, communications areas, and, of course, food tables. All the effort going into creating these temporary mini-cities reveals how popular the movement has become in the month it’s been active.
How did Occupy Wall Street begin?
The Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters first proposed the idea of occupying the New York financial district in late summer of this year, circulating a poster showing a dancer atop the Wall Street bull and posing the question, What is Our One Demand? Since the protests began September 17, many demands have emerged, including ending corporate personhood, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, shrinking the income gap between rich and poor, and reforming campaign finance laws. With its strident and raucous anti-capitalism stance, we could have expected Adbusters to launch a fringe movement that would fail to capture the hearts of a majority of citizens; however, widespread anger at the state of the economy and exploitation by corporate power have caused the movement to move towards the mainstream. Time magazine, for example, recently reported that 54% of Americans approve of Occupy.
Where does Cafe Gratitude fit into all of this excitement? Well, if you haven’t heard, our LA location just trucked a big batch of Grateful Bowls over to Occupy Los Angeles to feed the people camping outside City Hall (see the video below!). Ryland Engelhart, general manager at Gratitude LA, explained that he sees the Occupy movement as a call for unification from people across the country. Americans are feeling separated from each other and from our institutions, he says, and this may be a chance to bring us all together to improve our society. Luckily, the tent village in the City of Angels was still in need of food, so Ryland was not turned away and protesters got to enjoy delicious organic vegan meals!
We can connect food to the Occupy movement in more ways than simply feeding the demonstrators, however. A great article in Mother Jones has just been published, illustrating how the financial industry is not the only economic behemoth that has been consolidating power and causing angst for the majority of Americans. The food industry, the article claims, is even more consolidated and monopolistic than the financial sector. For example, just four companies produced 75 percent of cereal and snacks, 60 percent of cookies, and half of all ice cream in the U.S. in 2002. And since then, not much has changed, although the food movement is gaining steam, and will ramp up its power this October 24, the first-ever National Food Day.
Here’s hoping that the people on the streets keeping eating well, and that we can all start understanding that we’re going to need a movement as powerful as Occupy Wall Street to reform our current food system!