Last weekend we traveled to Boulder Colorado for the National Peace Academy Peacelearning Conference on Ecological Peace. Aside from wanting to simply connect with other peacemakers to share ideas and get inspired, we also went to launch a new project. After many months of pondering, plotting and “peacing” things together, on February 19, the PeaceMeal Project was officially born.
Hannah and I met at the University for Peace in Costa Rica, where, among other things, we discovered we shared a mutual passion for all things related to peace and food (which, as a side note, is in our opinion, everything). I studied Peace Education and Hannah studied Natural Resources and Peace, and has worked in the food realm for many years.
Initially, we discussed a collaborative book project, a potluck of tales, a stone soup of narratives that they would collect from family, friends, and people in their networks who shared this passion (which, as it turns out, is just about everyone). We dreamed up outlines, potential lists of topics, and schemed about potential collaborators.
But one day, we thought, why stop there?
When the National Peace Academy announced it would be having a conference on Ecological Peace and was calling for submissions, the educational side of PeaceMeal was born. This was a logical next step as we are both passionate about awareness-raising and education. We prepared a 90-minute interactive and participatory workshop that included a mindful eating exercise, brainstorms about peace and food, the story of a Sun-Maid raisin, and a brainstorm about the intersections of peace and food at various levels, including challenges and opportunities.
Throughout the conference, the theme of food came up repeatedly. In the first keynote address, Randall Amster, head of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Department of Peace Studies at Prescott College, said “To get a meal, you have to compromise your morals.” I think we can all relate to this – perhaps wanting to give up some sort of food but not being able to because of its convenience or low cost. Or wanting to get food from local farmers but having trouble breaking free of the convenience of the supermarket. Or wanting to grow your own food, but not having the space to do so (or knowing how to grow in a confined space). His statement certainly resonated with me, as I strive to do my best with respect to my food consumption, but know there are certainly many ways I could do better. I want my food consumption to be aligned with my peaceful ideals.
Randall also discussed how food and water are unique in that they are essential resources – there are no alternatives to them, and they are necessary for our survival, making them unique in their importance. The overall theme of his talk wasn’t doomsday or apocalypse, though – it was filled with hope for change. He framed the current ecological crisis as opportunity, and said that “our complicity gives us leverage” – because we are part of the problem, it follows that we can be part of the solution as well. We simply need to muster the will in time, and he urged us to start anywhere, now.
So we start with PeaceMeal. The mission of PeaceMeal is broadly and creatively to explore the connections between peace and food. We eat several times a day – which gives us many opportunities to explore how our choices, our purchases, and our consumption of food can contribute to fostering peace, both inner and outer, and how our daily act of eating can be an act of peace in itself. We hope to leverage our complicity in the current food system, which is by and large depleting and unsustainable, to contribute to a new system that is life-sustaining and healthy, for us and for the planet as a whole. If we can change the way we eat, and align it with peaceful principles of sustainability, justice, health, equality, democracy, we can change the world.