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Op-Ed: The Revolutionary Power of Food

Sugar, salt, grapes, maguey, and more: This Fourth of July, let’s recognize the role food plays in igniting movements for justice and change around the world, and throughout history.

In my many years of organizing community kitchens, I have seen how food—and organizing to feed people in need—can create profound benefits in even the poorest communities, uniting, organizing and instigating change from the bottom up. And through a review of history, I have also repeatedly encountered the ways food sits at the center of revolutionary movements.

As we mark the Fourth of July—following our first-ever national recognition of Juneteenth as a “second Independence Day”—it’s worth recognizing the power of food to ignite movements for justice and change around the world, and throughout history.

The Abolition Movement in England

In the late 1700s, Thomas Clarkston saw the light of abolition while preparing an essay at Cambridge University arguing against the slave trade. With a young person’s zeal, he set out to be part of the abolition movement, distributing thousands of copies on his travels throughout England, and became a founding member of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, whose members would actively work to get Parliament to end the slave trade.