The Power of Food

On March 16th, 1968, I was 9 years old and living in Southern California.

I was not only anticipating my upcoming 10th birthday in June, I was also slowly coming to see the world as it was. It was at that pivotal moment that Sen. Robert Kennedy arrived in California to meet with Caesar Chavez, who had been on a 25 day fast to draw attention to the reality of the squalor in which migrant farm workers and their families lived, so that others could enjoy the bounty of the Central Valley.

I was reminded of this moment today, when I went to Homeboy Industries in downtown L.A. to unveil the vision for the L.A. Kitchen.

I was invited by friends at the AARP Foundation (my dynamic partners) and Latino Magazine, which has a proven record of drawing attention to issues that are germane to the Chicano/Latino/SW community (where hunger is a not-so-hidden foe) to introduce my new venture to the LA community.

I wanted to speak not so much about “hunger”, but to the power of food….which is why I used this image of Robert Kennedy giving Caesar Chavez a small morsel of bread to break his fast, an image imprinted on my brain 44 years ago, to show the difference between using food to feed the poor, versus using it to liberate fellow citizens.

THAT is the power of food…and it is at the very heart of my work. Food can nourish, empower and strengthen to be sure, but it can also show commitment and solidarity…and it can reveal courage….the courage we in the nonprofit world must now embrace if we are to move beyond merely meeting need, and push society to meet its obligations.

Robert Kennedy was planning to announce that he was running for the Presidency the next week…and EVERY adviser told him to stay away from Chavez. Not only did he go to be with Cesar, he fed him. At that moment of communion, Robert Kennedy showed me the power of food.

THIS is why I am launching The L.A. Kitchen….to keep faith the this tradition….to humbly seek to show this level of commitment to doing what is right, and to stand–side x side–with fellow citizens….young and old…saints and sinners…those with less and those with more….to work together to show how great our country can be if we embrace our common destiny.

I’ll see you there.