Building a strong movement for food systems change in a divided nation will be the focus of a keynote address by HEAL Food Alliance Executive Director Navina Khanna at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 42nd annual conference, Our Time: Essential Links in a Strong Food Chain.
In her Sunday, February 14 keynote address, presented by Turner Farm, “Rooted, Ready, and Resilient: Cultivating a Movement for Crisis-Proof Food Systems,” Khanna will consider the ways in which COVID-19, climate chaos, and the 2020 elections have revealed deep fissures in our food systems and in our society and how we can build a strong, multi-sector movement for change to address these fissures. Four years after the launch of the HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance, she will share reflections on lessons learned through her journey and insights to help us all work together to meet the urgency of the moment.
“We’re seeing consequences of our destructive food system in so many of our communities,” Khanna told Civil Eats. “So it’s absolutely imperative that we see the interconnections.”
The HEAL Food Alliance is a national multi-sector, multi-racial coalition of 55 organizations. HEAL is led by its members, who represent two million farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food chain workers, indigenous groups, scientists, public health advocates, and community organizers across the United States. They work to build collective power to create food and farm systems that are healthy for families, accessible and affordable to communities, and fair to the people who grow, distribute, prepare, and serve the food that we all depend on to survive.
Khanna has dedicated more than 15 years to creating a more just and sustainable world through transforming food systems. With a background in sustainable agriculture and food justice, she’s worked as an educator, community organizer, and policy advocate, organizing across sectors and communities. Based in Oakland, California, Khanna serves on the Board of Richmond’s Urban Tilth, advises the Real Food Media Project, and organizes with #Asians4BlackLives.
A first-generation South Asian American, Khanna’s worldview is shaped by growing up and growing food in India and the U.S. She previously worked with other people of color committed to food system change to launch the HOPE (Health for Oakland’s People and Environment) Collaborative. In 2011, she coordinated Food and Freedom Rides, traveling 3,000 miles across the country to honor the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement’s Freedom Rides and bring attention to food-related injustices.
“The trip was deeply impactful for all of us,” says Khanna, whose work was recognized in 2014 with a James Beard Leadership Award. “It renewed my commitment to dismantling systems that put profit over people and the planet.”
She holds a master’s in international agricultural development from the University of California at Davis, where she also helped to develop the first undergraduate major in sustainable agriculture at a land-grant university.
“If we are to succeed in building a sustainable future with racial and gender equity as core values, we need policy that centers family farmers, farm workers, and food workers. Making fundamental changes to our food and farming system is urgent and central to stabilizing our climate, ensuring food security for current and future generations, and making sure that all people working in the system do so with meaning and dignity,” Khanna said in a press release.
OEFFA’s 42nd annual conference, to be held online February 10-15, will also feature keynote speakers Will Harris and Dr. Elaine Ingham; more than 60 educational workshops; full-day Food and Farm School classes; an interactive virtual trade show; debates, mixology and chef lessons, an open mic, children’s activities, and more. Sliding scale rates and a limited number of scholarships are available. For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2021.