Not the American Dream—the American Promise

An entrepreneurial approach is key to scaling up local, sustainable, and equitable food value chains. Enterprise is the correct model, but government and philanthropy must play a more prominent role in order to move away from the “dominant single player” model (think Amazon, Google, Facebook, Nestle, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Tyson Foods) and toward alternative models rooted in diversity, sustainability, and equity.

We need to shift away from the traditional linear supply chain to a more resilient, equitable, and interconnected hub and spoke system. One that facilitates the movement of goods and acts as a connector rather than an extractor.

The goal should be decentralization and hyper local whenever possible along with cooperative ownership of equipment and facilities. Technology also has a role, especially to facilitate connectivity among local suppliers and artisans.

Additionally, we must increase diversity of business ownership and management across food supply chains as it relates to both gender and race. While almost 60% of white households have equity in businesses, that percentage drops the low 20’s for BIPOC households. We must return control of production, distribution, and sales to our community, especially for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ populations. We cannot achieve our goals for resilient food value chains without addressing historical racism in our food system at every level.

In much the way that the San Diego Food System Alliance brings together diverse groups for collaboration and advocacy, we must create the means to produce, process, sell, and distribute in our communities. This could look like co-ops for growers and fishermen, for co-packing and manufacturing, and for distribution. We also must have more support for nascent food entrepreneurs in the form of low or no-cost incubators and accelerators.

Far too many people for far too long have been shut out of the “American Dream.” I think that dreams are nice and can be great, but I am much more interested in promises. Promise me how you will help in this fight to return control of our food economy to our communities and I promise you that I will do everything in my power to help you.

Chuck Samuelson is the founder of Kitchens for Good, and has spent a lifetime in the restaurant industry as a chef, resturanter, and consultant. Chuck's next vision is to scale up local, sustainable, and equitable food value chains that truly reach our communities, and open up opportunities for entrepeunership.

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