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Coffee and Change

February 8, 2010

Yesterday Stacy Edwards and I had a lovely Gchat conversation about the cafe – where we eat, drink, talk, sit, write, read, ponder alone and meet with others – being used for social change. As I shared with her a few links on my favorite cafes on the East Coast that truly contribute more to their local economies than just revenue flow and are working to change how our food system operates, I thought “Wow, what a great post for the WFPA blog! The cafe as a means of social and systemic change regarding the food system!” And so here we are…

For a brief overview of a few concepts, what we call a coffeehouse is recorded as first having appeared in the 1500’s in Istanbul. Even then, the concept has always had gatherings and discussion at its core. Looking at creating systemic change in regards to the food system, What Will It Take to Change the American Food System by Charles Benbrook from the Kellogg Food and Society Networking Conference in 2003 outlines some key points to take into account when working to bring systemic change to the food system. Cafes and restaurants that are integrating sustainability, traceability, ethical sourcing, and human rights (to name a few issues) are really working to consciously alter the food system for the better at a local level, which I believe to be a very powerful thing.

What are the cafes I mentioned to Stacy? Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain, MA (near Boston) has an attention to process that literally made me want to cry with joy: composting made readily available, locally-sourced ingredients readily used (and sourcing shared with customers), and enjoying a meal without feeling like I was ruining the environment. Plus some incredible food to boot.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe, in my homecity of Orlando, Florida, works hard to contribute to the “Ourlando” which is their name for the area buy local and sustainability movement. And their vegan menu is awesome.

What I find so interesting about Ula and Dandelion is that they are taking sustainability and corporate social responsibility and really embedding it into the design of their cafes. This is more than just talking about change at the coffee house: this is using the very design of the cafe for societal change. It’s sending a powerful message that the current conventional system needs to change, and these local institutions aren’t waiting for the change to happen, rather, helping to help bring it about.

And with that, I hope you all go and talk about making change happen in a cafe that is working to make social and systemic change happen within the food system. If you’d like to join in the conversation, be it on how to make our food system more sustainable or a great socially-responsible cafe in your area, please leave a comment below – thanks!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 3:19 pm

    Thanks for turning our conversation into a great post! Loved it.

  2. February 14, 2010 12:43 am

    Thanks for the mention and what a great resource!

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