Growing Food & Justice for All: How Westchester can play a role in the growing food justice movement and create a sustainable future


In late October of 2009 a few WESPAC members went to Will Allen’s second Growing Food & Justice for all Initiative (GFJI) in Milwaukee, WI to gather resources, network and figure how we can expand on the community gardening and nutrition classes we started last summer. The point of the gathering was "to create a network of activists who are working toward a just food system and world.  We are group of individuals, organizations and institutional partners aimed at dismantling racism and empowering low-income and communities of color through sustainable and local agriculture, but also linking with parallel social and environmental movements" (

With similar goals for Westchester County, WESPAC’s food justice committee aims to bring people together to work on food justice, community health and the environment for the purpose of transforming the local food system to meet local needs in a social justice context.

Will Allen, a former professional basketball player who grew up on a farm in Maryland, founded the not-for-profit organization Growing Power. Will started Growing Power in 1993 by buying the last functional farm in Milwaukee’s city limits. Its facilities include seven large greenhouses, a kitchen, indoor and outdoor training gardens, aquaculture system and a food distribution facility. Fish, worms, bees, goats, chickens, turkeys, and ducks are also raised there. Growing power conducts workshops and demonstrations in aquaculture, aquaponics, vermiculture, horticulture, small or large-scale composting, soil reclamation, food distribution, beekeeping, and marketing. Will was the recipient of the 2008 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" for his work on urban farming and sustainable food production with Growing Power.

During the three day gathering, we attended a variety of workshops from Bringing Fair Trade to Organic Agriculture and Using Media to Grow Food Justice to Using Art and Spiritually to Change our Community and the food system. There were tours thoughout Milwaukee to other projects and businesses that work with Growing Power to address food justice. We broke into regional meetings where we were able to connect with the hundreds of people who came from New York and the Hudson Valley. For many attendees that was the best part of the weekend:  connecting and building relationships with others from our region and around the country, sharing strategies and ideas on how to make our communities better.

Coming home from the gathering, WESPAC has organized a group of members to focus on food justice with the purpose of addressing the need to create an alternative local food system that guarantees people in the lowest income brackets access to affordable, fresh and local foods.  The WESPAC group meets  at our White Plains space on Tuesday evenings with representatives from other gardening groups, community members, students and activists to figure out the best way to transform Westchester in ways inspired by Will Allen’s Milwaukee model. If you or your organization is interested in joining this growing movement, please contact Jalal: [email protected] or Surya: [email protected].

Jalal, Sabur, WESPAC Foundation
Community Organizer