FOOD: Transforming the American Table

Voting With Your Fork

Groups promoting political and cultural nationalism—Red Power, Black Power, Brown Power—created alternative food production and distribution systems to address disparities in food access. They also boycotted and struck against foods and practices that wronged people—farmworkers and low-wage laborers—or the environment. Through philosophies expressed on T-shirts, recyclable bags, buttons, bumper stickers, books, and posters, countercultural advocates connected food and politics in ways that persisted into the 2000s.

Political Button, around 1970

Political Button, around 1970

Gift of Vicki L. Thorn

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Political Button, around 1970

Political Button, around 1970

Gift of Sam D. Steinhart

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Appalled by the conditions and low wages endured by farmworkers and laborers, consumer groups and labor unions organized long boycotts and strikes against big produce growers and bulk wine producers.

Protest button, about 1970

Protest button, around 1970

Protest button, around 1970

Cookbook for protestors, 1970s

Cookbook for protestors, 1970s

Gift of Shirley Cherkasky

Salads for Lettuce Boycotters features recipes for lettuce-free salads.

Co-op bag, 1971

Gift of Judy Chelnick

This reusable bag from the Cleveland Food Co-op reflects the ethos of many college campuses in the early 1970s. The volunteer-run co-op kept prices affordable and carried organic produce and bulk grains not available in supermarkets. The bag’s owner was a loyal co-op shopper and reused the bag in support of the growing environmental movement.

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“Food for People, Not for Profit,” 1999

“Food for People, Not for Profit,” 1999

First imagined by Marvella Lewis for the Maryland Food Co-Op and re-designed in 1999 by Gnarly Artly, the design of a fist punching through a sandwich incorporated the popular co-op motto used throughout the country.

Courtesy of Gnarly Artly

“The Maryland Food Co-op 10th Anniversary Party,” 1986

Gift of Roger Hecht

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Warren and Amy Belasco, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1972–73

Warren and Amy Belasco, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1972–73

The Belascos, at the time graduate students at the University of Michigan, raised corn and other vegetables in a field shared with members of a university-based co-op.  

Courtesy of Warren and Amy Belasco

Free Breakfast Program, 1969

Free Breakfast Program, 1969

Black Panther activists established free breakfast programs for children across the country to draw attention to hunger.  Bill Whitfield serves breakfast to children in Kansas City, Missouri.

Photo by William Straeter, courtesy of AP Images

 

Free Food Program, 1972

Free Food Program, 1972

Poor women in Palo Alto, California, receiving groceries from the Black Panther’s People’s Free Food Program.  

Courtesy of photographer Stephen Shames/Polaris