Archive | Local

RSS feed for this section

Racial Equity in the Food System Gathering

The PVGrows Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group invites you to a gathering

Wednesday, November 5th

from 4:00 – 6:00 PM at  the Holyoke Health Center

230 Maple Street, Holyoke, MA 1st Floor Conference Room

Click Here to RSVP

The PVGrows Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group gatherings provide a space for us to deepen our shared understanding of racism, how it shows up in the food system; and why food justice & racial equity are at the core of creating a healthy food system. Light refreshments will be served.

This event is open to anyone dedicated to creating a just and healthy food system in the Pioneer Valley.

Background Reading: 
How well are you representing a vibrant a food movement for the 21st century? by Kamilah Weeks
Reflections on Diversity and Inclusion in Western Mass by Andrew Morehouse
Why is PVGrows inviting our members to an Undoing Racism Training? by Liz O’Gilvie

Comments are closed

2014 Spring Forum Videos & Clips : The Hands that Feed Us

Good Food and Good Jobs in the Pioneer Valley

Participants at the 2014 PVGrows Spring Forum discussed how to ensure that the development of our local food system provides farm and food workers with fair pay, quality working conditions and a voice in the workplace. Check out our YouTube video segments below, or click here for the full forum video.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


The Spring Forum took place Thursday, April 10th from 9:00 am – 1:30 pm at Mill 1 in Open Square, 4 Open Square Way, Holyoke, MA 

The food system accounts for 18 % of our Pioneer Valley jobs, employing nearly 38,000 people, and generating over $1 billion in local revenue. And it’s growing–  but the people who do the work of producing, manufacturing, processing, distributing, and selling our food see disproportionately less of the benefits of this growth.

At the PVGrows Spring Forum, participants used both a local and a national lenses to increase understanding of the opportunities that scaling up our local food system could provide for increased justice and equity for food system workers.


  • Learned who are “the hands that feed us.” How many people work in what kinds of food jobs and what are their wages and future career prospects, which focused especially on farm workers and restaurant workers.

  • Gained an understanding of working conditions that workers experience in growing, processing, cooking, and serving the food we eat.

  • Heard how employers navigate the challenge of providing workers fair pay while still running profitable businesses, and looked at successful strategies that employers are using in the region.

  • Posed questions about the future: what kinds of jobs and careers lay ahead for our increasingly localized food system?

The PVGrows Spring Forum is an annual event that allows for networking and experience sharing among local people taking varied approaches to building food system careers, including those who are taking action to ensure that Pioneer Valley food jobs are indeed good jobs.

The Forum included interactive sessions, structured networking, opportunities for collaboration, and a locally grown lunch.

View the complete list of Forum Presenters
Read more here about the PVGrows Forum.

This event was open to anyone working for a healthy food system in the Pioneer Valley, but due to spacial constraints, was limited to 120.
PVGrows Fall Forum 2012 - Springfield

The following reports informed and inspired the title and content of the 2014 Forum including:

  1. The Hands that Feed Us by the Food Chain Workers Alliance
  2. Good Food and Good Jobs for All by Yvonne Yen Liu, Applied Research Center
  3. The 25% Shift by Michael Shuman
  4. Backbone of Sustainable Food by the Vermont Fair Food Campaign

Video from the Forum is available on the PVGrows YouTube Channel.

Thank you to our Sponsors:



A special thanks to our caterers

Comments are closed

Over 40 Food System Advocates attended an “Undoing Racism” training in May

On May 4th, 5th and 6th, participants dedicated to creating a just and healthy food system attended a training by the People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond, a national multiracial network of anti-racist organizers and educators dedicated to building a movement for justice by ending racism and other forms of institutional oppression.  The training was an intensive 2 ½ day workshop designed to educate, challenge, and empower people to “undo” the racist structures that hinder effective social change. Their analysis moves beyond a focus on the symptoms of racism to an understanding of what it is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone.  Read more.

The event was hosted byUndoing Racism Organizing Collective, who has been hosting Undoing Racism Workshops in the Pioneer Valley for over a decade.

Partners:  Holyoke Food & Fitness Policy Council, Live Well Springfield, & PVGrows

Want to get involved or hear more about the work being done in the Pioneer Valley on race & the food system? Please consider becoming a PVGrows Member and click on the Racial Equity and the Food System Working Group box.

If you have questions about the Undoing Racism workshop, please contact:

Background:  The reality of racial inequity in this country is especially apparent in the food system.  People of color are most disproportionately negatively impacted by: food insecurity, “food deserts,” obesity, wage and hour violations, lack of benefits, and more.  PVGrows was one of four organizations who partnered on the Undoing Racism, two-and-a-half-day workshop. Over the past 30 years, more than 500,000 people (including 40+ PVGrows members) have participated in the Undoing Racism workshop. The goal of the workshop was to strengthen the anti-racist analysis and practice of sustainable food system and food justice work in the Pioneer Valley.  This was the first time Undoing Racism was offered specifically for people working on food system issues.


Liz O’Gilvie, Urban Green Pantry, PVGrows Steering Committee member:

I can tell you personally that going through Undoing Racism helped me to identify my own internalized oppression & biases. I believe that I am now able to show up more authentically in my personal and professional relationships. Racism is tough. Even in the midst of progress, I sometimes wonder if it will ever be gone.  Going through the undoing racism training, and the deeper connections that I have made because of it, gave me hope.  Read the rest of Liz’s post on why PVGrows is hosting this event…

Andrew Morehouse, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, former PVGrows Steering Committee member:

Recently, I had the good fortune of participating in a two-day intensive “Undoing Racism” workshop hosted by a local group of the same name – the Undoing Racism Organizing Collective (UROC).  I’d like to share with you some of my reflection on the workshop, and why this topic is important to The Food Bank and should be to everyone in Western Massachusetts.  Read the rest of Andrew’s post about his reflection on the Undoing Racism training…

Comments are closed

Reflections on Diversity and Inclusion in Western Massachusetts

Recently, I had the good fortune of participating in a two-day intensive “Undoing Racism” workshop hosted by a local gUROCroup of the same name – the Undoing Racism Organizing Collective (UROC).  I’d like to share with you some of my reflection on the workshop, and why this topic is important to The Food Bank and should be to everyone in Western Massachusetts.

UROC is a little-known unsung hero in our region that has been working on this intractable societal issue for about two decades.  With support from Bay State Health, they invited the nationally-renowned People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) to lead the workshPISABop for more than forty local individuals mainly from non-profit businesses, but also some representatives from government and for-profit businesses, including a couple of farmers.

Andrew Morehouse, The Food Bank of Western MassachusettsWill Szal

Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, at the PVGrows Forum.

Since its founding in 1980, PISAB has impacted the lives of more than 500,000 people to “help individuals, communities, organizations and institutions move beyond addressing the symptoms of racism to undoing the causes of racism so as to create a more just and equitable society.”  I felt that they facilitated the workshop in a sensitive and nurturing, yet direct and unapologetic manner, emphasizing that every participant came with a different life experience and perspective that warranted tolerance and respect.

While it would take a long time for me to explain everything I experienced and learned in the workshop, I would like to share the most meaningful benefit I got out of it.   I was able to meet so many interesting and committed individuals who are doing important work to provide resources to, and create opportunities for, vulnerable individuals and families in our region.   Going into the workshop, I knew that racism endures in our society even if we — individuals of all skin colors — personally reject it and even work to reverse it in our own way.  The workshop discussion unpacked the reality that “mainstream” American society affords privileges and opportunities (if not power) to white people like myself whether we are comfortable admitting and accepting it or not.   Conversely, people of color routinely experience disadvantages in our schools, the workplace, in our economy and even our political system even when there are laws, rules and efforts to prevent this from happening.  We simply haven’t achieved equal opportunity in this country regardless of skin color.

This is certainly true when it comes to access to nutritious food.  People of color are disproportionately at risk of hunger and/or food insecurity– not knowing where your next meal will come from– in Western Massachusetts and across the country.  (That said, the majority of people who experience both are still white given the larger size of the white population regionally and nationally.) There are many reasons why people of color are more likely to go hungry than white people. One reason that we hear a lot about these days is the preponderance of “food deserts” in communities of color where costlier and less healthy food is abundant relative to more nutritious and often less costly food.   Other reasons include the lack of equal opportunity generally in our society and higher rates of poverty and working poverty in communities of color.

When I think about Western Massachusetts and, specifically, the communities that we work with at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, I am struck by the diversity across our region.   Of course, we can define diversity in many ways… not only race, but also ethnicity, country of origin, income, gender, age, sexual orientation, religious background, etc.

All of these aspects of diversity are important to us at The Food Bank because we work closely with so many diverse individuals from the more than 300 member agencies in cities and town across all four counties of our region.  We make emergency food available to more than 44,000 people every month through an elaborate network of local, non-profit feeding programs who are members of The Food Bank.  We also work with thousands of food and fund donors, and volunteers to carry out our mission to feed our neighbors in need and lead the community to end hunger.

For this reason, we undertook a year-long diversity assessment at The Food Bank about a year ago.  Since then, we’ve gone through a strategic planning process in which, among other things, we re-affirmed our organizational values, including diversity and inclusiveness:

  • We strive to have the diversity of our community and the people we serve reflected in our staff and board directors
  • We believe that an understanding of the inequalities in access to food is essential to conducting our work
  • We are committed to increasing cultural competence and inclusion in our organization.

Along with me, two other staff has participated in the UROC workshop.  We will share some of our learning with our colleagues as we continuously deepen our understanding of diversity and consciously take steps to live our organizational values.  I challenge you to do the same.  The UROC workshop is a great place to start.

Comments are closed