Night of Food Justice: Activism on the menu

  • Hodaliz Borrayes makes tortillas for the first annual Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. The event is a fund raiser for Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the national Food Chain Workers Alliance. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neftali Duran works with others form the Pioneer Valley Workers Center to prepare food for the first annual Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. The event is a A fund raiser for Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the national Food Chain Workers Alliance. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neftali Duran works with others form the Pioneer Valley Workers Center to prepare food for the first annual Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. The event is a A fund raiser for Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the national Food Chain Workers Alliance. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neftalí Durán works with others from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center to prepare food for the Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. Former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman was the event’s featured speaker.

  • Neftali Duran works with others form the Pioneer Valley Workers Center to prepare food for the first annual Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. The event is a A fund raiser for Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the national Food Chain Workers Alliance. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hodaliz Borrayes makes tortillas for the Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hodaliz Borrayes and Patricia Lopez make tortillas for the first Night of Food Justice at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. The event is a fundraiser for the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and the national Food Chain Workers Alliance. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 6/18/2019 11:51:20 PM

More than 150 people were expected Tuesday night for the first Night of Food Justice dinner with former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman at Valley View Farm in Haydenville. The dinner, hosted by The Pioneer Valley Workers Center, is meant to raise awareness of justice issues facing food workers.

“It’s a hard time to be organizing for workers’ rights right now,” workers center lead organizer Margaret Sawyer said in reference to the current political climate. “We need the support from the broader community.”

The workers center, which counts 260 members, most of whom work in restaurants or on farms, works to confront issues that include wage theft, receiving less than minimum wage, and the difficulties agricultural workers face in using public transportation to work in locations off the beaten path.

Food for the Night of Food Justice was prepared over two days by renowned cook and advocate Neftalí Durán with the help of a kitchen full of workers center volunteers.

Asked why it was important for the public to be aware of issues facing food workers, Durán expressed concern that many in the Pioneer Valley live “in a bubble” where they can comfortably ignore these issues.

“People are either not aware, or don’t want to be aware of the injustices … in the food system,” he said as he sauteed onions and garlic. “We’re your neighbors. We’re part of this community whether you like us or not. People like all the people you see in this kitchen are the backbone of the food system.”

In between answering questions for the Gazette, Durán directed his fellow cooks in English and Spanish. Sawyer confirmed that the event itself would also be fully bilingual, complete with a team of Spanish-speaking interpreters from a collective established within the workers center. 

Balls of dough were pressed into tortillas and thrown on a griddle while Durán and Marisol Amaya, a workers center member with experience cooking in Mexican restaurants, chopped onions. José Manuel Zaruma, another workers center member and Northampton resident, sliced cucumbers while Durán poured a large quantity of black beans over the onions and garlic. Workers center member Patricia Lopéz, who is largely responsible for the creation of a new farm collective on the border of Northampton and Hatfield, was also volunteering to help cook Tuesday.

Bittman, the featured speaker at the dinner,  is on the advisory board of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, and was to to speak on the evolution of his thinking related to food production as well as his commitment to justice for food workers. Guests could also pay an extra $50 on a $100 dinner ticket for “Cocktails with Bittman” before the dinner began at 6 p.m.

The multi-course meal included appetizers provided by Belly of the Beast in Northampton, a salad prepared with seasonal greens and vegetables grown locally, tacos served build-your-own style, and a tres leches cake for dessert.

Funds raised from the sold-out event will go to the workers center and the national Food Chain Workers Alliance.




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