This is a guest post by Frankie Pondolph and Danielle Robidoux, organizers with Equal Exchange Action Forum.
“Consumers and farmers must continue to walk together. We are all in the same struggle for a life of peace.”
-Diego Perez Lopez, CIRSA Co-op, Mexico
Equal Exchange is one of the largest worker-owned cooperatives in the United States, and has a mission to bridge the gap between consumers in the North and farmers in the Global South, while creating mutually beneficial trade relationships. Our products include coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, avocados, nuts, and dried fruit.
We have always valued the relationships between our worker-owners, farmer partners and supporters. For 30 years Equal Exchange has told the story of small farmers, the realities they face, and the hard work it takes to build ethical and transparent supply chains. Reflecting on our history we’ve realized we neglected a large piece of our supply chain: U.S. consumers. Equal Exchange launched the Action Forum in late 2016 to deepen engagement with citizen-consumers in a grassroots movement to analyze our food system.
The Equal Exchange Action Forum is a space within Equal Exchange for individuals to join a virtual and physical community to network, learn, and challenge the injustices within our food system. It’s a vehicle to build an authentic and democratic community, and a tool to foster relationships that will connect us to each other and our food. Despite the system’s power to commodify every aspect of our lives, including our ability to connect with one another, here we have the opportunity to create something anew.
The Action Forum has been working on hosting various events around the country including summits that bring together worker-owners, producer partners and Action Forum members to learn. Alongside carving out physical spaces in different communities we also host monthly webinars.Some feature our farmer partners, outside speakers, and other worker-owners about broader food system topics and Equal Exchange’s model. We have also developed an educational interactive platform for membership to connect with each other, share resources and participate in discussions.
In many ways this work feels like returning to our roots, 31 years in. The Action Forum creates a space to allow humanness and relationship building to continue to be a part of what makes Equal Exchange so special. A space where we can take risks, learn, and innovate together. To do this we need to hear your stories, your challenges and your vision.
Please join us in building this movement and community by visiting equalexchange.coop/action-forum.
Have questions? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org