Announcing the 2019 Food Sovereignty Prize Honorees

Prepared by Tyler Short, Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville


The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance is very excited to announce the winners of the 2019 Food Sovereignty Prize. Urban Tilth (Richmond, CA) is the domestic honoree, and Plan Pueblo a Pueblo (Plan People to People; Venezuela) is the international honoree.

The eleventh annual Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony will occur virtually on the evening of Thursday, October 10, anchored by the USFSA’s Midwest Region at their membership assembly in Ferguson, Missouri. Please keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a livestream registration link that includes the exact time of the event.   

About the Prize

The Food Sovereignty Prize (FSP) was first awarded in 2009 by the Community Food Security Coalition. The USFSA began to lead the initiative once the Coalition disbanded in 2013.  

For the USFSA, awarding the Prize allows for expanding the Alliance’s public outreach through recognition of the inspirational efforts demonstrated by grassroots organizations and networks seeking to realize the right to people’s food sovereignty and the scaling of agroecology. The FSP spotlights honorees committed to struggling for social change through collective action, policy reform, cultivating global linkages, and centering the leadership of women, youth, poor people, and marginalized racialized groups. Furthermore, the FSP functions as an oppositional tool for developing a counter-narrative against industrial agribusiness, particularly the World Food Prize annually awarded to individuals who purportedly advance human development via alleged improvements to the quantity, quality, and availability of food.

The FSP highlights how grassroots social movements confront corporate control over seeds, land, water, labor, knowledge, supply chains, and policy-making. The Prize calls attention to grassroots protagonists who persistently work toward ending poverty, localizing food systems, and democratizing politics to benefit farmers, fisherfolk, food chain workers, and consumers.

While selecting the honorees, the 2019 FSP committee and National Coordination of the USFSA discussed the current U.S. political and economic context in which the gap between rich and poor widens, politicians contend for 2020 Presidential nominations, agri-food corporate mergers further consolidate markets, and family farmers and small-scale fishers continue to face bankruptcy and displacement. USFSA leaders understood the need to denounce the heightened risks faced by migrant families, poor communities of color, and indigenous peoples threatened by the U.S. government’s stricter border enforcement, ongoing immigration raids, intensified militarization of police, and privatization of public lands consisting of sacred ancestral sites. The USFSA also decided that the 2019 FSP should raise awareness about the U.S. government’s aggressive interventionist policies in Latin America and elsewhere.     

Domestic Honoree: Urban Tilth

Urban Tilth was founded in 2005 with the mission of building more sustainable, just, and healthy food systems in West Contra Coast County, California. In addition to coordinating two school gardens, the organization operates five community gardens and small urban farms for growing and distributing thousands of pounds of culturally-appropriate produce each year.

The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) of Urban Tilth supplies ten-pound boxes of fresh produce to local eaters every week throughout the year. The CSA provides affordable, seasonal food grown by the organization and procured through partner distributors. They also sell their pesticide-free produce at a weekly farm stand. As a co-founder of the Richmond Food Policy Council, Urban Tilth strives for legislative reform that ensures the viability of the regional agri-food economy and serves the interests of all local residents. Guaranteeing healthy food in public schools has been a priority as well as popular education on the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables for a well-balanced diet.  

Doria Robinson, the Executive Director of Urban Tilth, serves as a co-coordinator of the USFSA’s Western region. Urban Tilth also participates on the steering committee of the Our Power Richmond Coalition, which is dedicated to achieving a Just Transition from extractivism toward a regenerative economy grounded in racial justice and governed by frontline community leadership. Furthermore, Urban Tilth is an active member of Climate Justice Alliance’s Food Sovereignty Working Group that has been developing a translocal strategy for eliminating the dependence of agri-food systems on fossil fuels and shifting away from the capitalist logic which prioritizes profit over people. Through CJA and the USFSA, Urban Tilth organizes around the vision of ending hunger and malnutrition and combating climate change by creating and defending regional, appropriately scaled, environmentally responsible, and socioeconomically just agri-food systems.   

International Honoree: Plan Pueblo a Pueblo

El Plan Socialista de Producción, Distribución, y Consumo de Alimentos Pueblo a Pueblo (The People to People Socialist Plan of Production, Distribution, and Consumption) started in 2015 with the establishment of a network to bridge rural-urban divides in Venezuela.  Plan Pueblo a Pueblo purchases fruits, vegetables, tubers, legumes, basic grains, meat, eggs, and sugar from small producers. Organizers distribute the food to urban consumers at prices more affordable than products sold in conventional markets like street vendors and stores.

The grassroots-driven Plan has created an alternative to capitalist agribusiness that relies on imported food and seeds, the intense use of chemical inputs, and intermediary buyers. Guided by socialist and ecological principles, Plan Pueblo a Pueblo links rural producers and tens of thousands of urban consumers into a mutually beneficial system defined by solidarity, equity, democratic decision-making, the promotion of organic agricultural practices, and the recovery of native seed varieties. Food delivered by Plan Pueblo a Pueblo supplement items supplied through the government’s food distribution program called CLAP (Local Food Production and Provision Committees).

U.S. sanctions and attempts to install a new President in Venezuela have imposed significant challenges for participants and organizers of Plan Pueblo a Pueblo. The weaponization of food by the U.S. government amounts to collective punishment against Venezuelans, 40,000 of who died between 2017 and 2018 as result of sanctions limiting access to live-saving medicine, medical equipment, food, and other basic imports. Plan Pueblo a Pueblo farmers face shortages of seeds, fertilizers, and tools due to the U.S.-led economic blockade and rising rates of inflation.

Food sovereignty and socialist economic planning are key solutions for Plan Pueblo a Pueblo to ensure the human right to food and protection for the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. The network allies with the Bolivarian revolutionary government and works with partner organizations to rebuild seed reserves, produce organic fertilizer, acquire tools, bolster direct market relations, and lead political education trainings for rural and urban communities.