In our world, there is no reason for hunger other than an imbalance in the power of resource distribution. How can food become a tool for equality? Can we define the ground rules to apply to social and humanitarian projects to induce a significant change in our communities? Food entrepreneur and philanthropist Claus Meyer has penned a manifesto, co-signed with Lucas Denton, content director of Brownsville Community Culinary Center in New York, listing the lessons learned from his numerous sustainable food experiences. Which turns out to be a good gauge for a new social pragmatism.

1. We recognise that while we may be offering resources, communities offer solutions.

This acknowledges that those who deal with broken systems every day are the most qualified to address them. It is highly unlikely that I would have been of much help to the New Nordic Cuisine movement had I not grown up living with the consequences of an uninspired, unenthused, unhealthy culinary culture.

2. All partnerships must be based on research and data gathering, and must be conducted collaboratively with the community.

When working to develop the New Nordic Cuisine movement, we consulted with Nordic Chefs and academics to identify the very best resources our region had to offer. In Bolivia, we identified the healthiest, most delicious ingredients Bolivia had to offer in its multitude of microclimates, working with chefs, academics, farmers, and community leaders to collaborate on a new cuisine to celebrate the country’s possibilities. In Brownsville [Brooklyn, New York], our team learned that a journey into culinary history would provide the foundation of our partnership. We worked with neighbourhood seniors, culinary historians, urban farmers, and community organisers to develop a structure that would amplify the resources and traditions that have held the community together.

3. Any development must be community-driven from concept to execution; new institutions must serve to strengthen existing mission-aligned community institutions.

We haven’t seen a single instance of a community becoming stronger by being dependent on outside forces. Our greatest successes have been when taking direction from the community in every regard, from identifying the problems to devising the solutions. We’ve implemented structures that keep community input at the forefront of each aspect of what we do.

4. Organisational structure must lead to community control.

We commit ourselves to incorporating community control in our organisational structures, with the eventual outcome being complete community control of the project. In La Paz [Bolivia], though, we remain on site as an available resource and – since we reserve certain rights as a funding agent and founding father – we are in the final stages of successfully transferring the Gustu restaurant to Bolivian leadership. This will be the spirit of all our efforts going forward.

5. The ultimate goal of all engagements is to enhance the agency of community residents and resident-led institutions.

We want to leave our partners more powerful than when we met them. It’s that simple. And we know that power doesn’t come from dependence; it is the ability to control the factors affecting one’s destiny.

This article appeared in DAM64. Order your personal copy.
Melting Pot Foundation. Photo: Jeffrey Lei
Melting Pot Foundation. Photo: Jeffrey Lei