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You can certainly have food security under dictatorship, but you can’t have food sovereignty. You need democracy for food sovereignty to happen. Food sovereignty requires discussion. It takes putting people around the table, with meetings to figure out how water and food are shared, and how hunger is eradicated. Most of all, it’s characterized by conversations around hunger, poverty, and community. Those kinds of conversations are happening from Detroit to Oakland and that’s something to be celebrated.

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Food Sovereignty

Food Sovereignty

Location: Xuyem Pham's Garden, East New Orleans, LA

Featuring: Xuyem Pham

Xuyen Pham fled Vietnam with her husband and children at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. After months in Southeast Asian refugee camps, they were moved to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. The family was eventually sponsored by a hotel owner in Oklahoma, but due to the coldthey moved again, settling in the “Mary Queen of Vietnam," a community in East New Orleans.

Twenty years later, Xuyen lost her home again, this time to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the storm, she turned the property into a farm to feed her community. Xuyen’s farm is right in the middle of a suburban housing track in East New Orleans. Here, she stands amidst taro plants in in her home garden. The plant stems are a base ingredient in traditional soups and congees found on most Vietnamese dinner tables. By growing taro and other vegetables she keeps Vietnamese traditions alive in her community.

For Xuyen, food sovereignty requires both livelihood and self-determination. It’s the ability of community members to control food access and production independently of outside food sources. It empowers community elders to grow traditional fruits and vegetables and fisher folk to go shrimping, fishing, and crabbing to sell at local stores, the local Saturday farmers market, and most importantly, to feed their families, neighbors, and community members.

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