This post is written by Maddie Cunninghan, an FRN Expansion Fellow for the 2015-2016 year.
Last month I had the opportunity to attend the International Forum for Women's Food Leadership in the Global South at The George Washington University with several of my FRN colleagues. Hosted by GWU's Global Gender Program, this extraordinary event brought women from diverse fields, backgrounds, and geographical locations together to share their stories of the fight to build a more just food system.
Throughout the two days, several themes emerged that I found particularly powerful and relevant to the work FRN leaders do each day. One theme the panelists brought up many times was the need to focus on solutions, not just problems. As women from developing nations, many of the women were all too used to their country or region being used as a case study for problems like agricultural inefficiency, lack of infrastructure, or malnutrition. While these are real problems, and seeing them clearly is deeply important, the next step is to do something about them.
The female food leaders we heard from know a thing or two about doing something to create real change. So do FRN student leaders. As a New Chapter Coordinator at FRN, I get to speak with student leaders working hard to create official FRN chapters of their campuses every day. In my mind, these students are “Food Leaders” in their own right. These students are informed about climate change, hunger, and social inequality. They see problems in their community, and they do something.
The way FRN chapters go about making a difference is simple, tangible, and effective. They donate food that would normally be wasted to people in need. This may not tackle all of the problems related to our food system all at once, but as the fellow who took on the task of entering all of our partner agency testimonials into a new database this year I can assure you that FRN leaders are making a difference. At one point during the conference, one of the women said “Just because it's complex doesn't mean we don't go there.” The women food leaders I had the opportunity to hear speak, and FRN leaders both prove that being informed about complex issues doesn’t have to lead to paralysis. So FRNds let’s keep moving forward, one step at a time.
For more information about the Forum, check out Food Tank's event debrief.