Oxfam Action Corps: Growing a Better Food System through Action and Conversation

By Alyssa Casey

Oxfam Action Corps is a growing group of concerned citizens using local conversation and action to help end global hunger. The Action Corps currently exists in 14 U.S. cities, spreading the mission of Oxfam International. Oxfam International is a confederation of 17 organizations located across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. As an international relief organization, Oxfam aims to eliminate global injustice by providing immediate aid and improving long-term sustainability. They also distribute a variety of publications including annual reports, books, facts sheets, and the magazine OXFAMExchange.

Oxfam Action Corps volunteers in Indianapolis, IN work to spread the GROW campaign and recruit new Action Corps members. (Photo credit: Indianapolis Oxfam Action Corps)

Oxfam America’s Action Corps aims to enact change by educating people about better living habits, as well as lobbying government on issues such as water conservation, food security, aid reform, and workers’ rights. One of their newest and fastest-spreading campaigns is GROW, a food justice campaign. GROW aims to build a better food system that will adequately feed the world population by promoting a more equitable distribution of resources among the world’s farmers, holding governments and businesses accountable, and helping farmers prepare to cope with climate change and natural disasters.

GROW emphasizes that everyone has a role in the movement towards a healthier, more sustainable food system. With its slogan “feed your family and help 1 billion people feed themselves,” the GROW Method demonstrates that each person can impact the global food system by simply adopting sensible eating habits. The method contains five actions that help eliminate inefficiencies in food habits. Planning meals in advance and incorporating leftovers into recipes helps reduce food waste. Decreasing meat and dairy consumption, and using minimal water and energy while cooking can conserve natural resources. Buying from local farmers markets and eating seasonal foods reduces the amount of energy used in food transportation. On the GROW method’s interactive website, people can learn more about the initiative, browse recipes, and watch videos created by Oxfam to explain how current food systems operate.

The Action Corps also hosts local Hunger Banquets. An Oxfam America Hunger Banquet is a dinner hosted by an individual or group at which guests are given basic information about both Oxfam and global food systems. The Hunger Banquet avoids simply inundating people with facts and statistics, and instead provides basic information to encourage discussion. The idea is the more people that discuss and think about food systems, the more attention will be paid to the issue, and therefore the greater likelihood for positive change. Oxfam provides all the materials needed to host a Hunger Banquet, some of which can be downloaded from their website, free of charge.

The idea of discussing food while eating food has sparked other Action Corps events. There is an Oxfam group on Grubwithus.com, a social dining network that aims to bring local community members together over meals. Using the site, anyone can create a meal by setting up a date, time and location. Once the meal is created, other interested members in the area can sign up to join. When the day arrives, all those signed up meet at the specified location and enjoy a meal together while getting to know fellow community members. The Oxfam group uses the site to organize meals for interested parties to discuss poverty, injustice, and how to fix the food system. The first of these Oxfam-themed dinners took place in Boston under the theme “Love Food, Hate Injustice.”

The Action Corps is currently preparing to celebrate World Food Day, which takes place every year on October 16th, the day the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded. Each year World Food Day carries a different focus; the theme for World Food Day 2012 is “agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world.” Oxfam’s World Food Day 2012 website details information for hosting a World Food Day Dinner. Resources include recipes, discussion guides, and videos from well-known figures endorsing World Food Day, such as South African activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Oxfam hopes to reach a goal of 1,000 World Food Day Dinners taking place this year across the United States.

Further information on the Oxfam Action Corps can be found on their website. The Action Corps blog tracks the initiatives and progress of Action Corps groups across the nation.

What changes are you making to your eating habits to reduce food waste and conserve resources? Do you have plans to celebrate World Food Day on October 16th? Let us know in the comments below!

Alyssa Casey is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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