Kiani Conley-Wilson wants to remake the food system If there’s one thing the pandemic has brought to light, it’s the rampant inequalities that exist across our food systems. One in four households experienced food insecurity in 2020, and food pantries and mutual aid networks have struggled to keep up with demand. The question of who can eat, and eat well, and who can’t has never been more urgent. Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg, New York, which is dedicated to “equity in access to land, sustenance, and power in the food system,” is working to fix those inequalities. With an eye toward Indigenous and Black rights, its food sovereignty programs help feed and teach more than 10,000 people a year, whether by providing raised garden beds to city dwellers, delivering free “solidarity shares” of produce to local residents, or working on land-return initiatives for northeast farmers. And when it comes to inspiring others to join in the mission, Soul Fire Farm relies on Kiani Conley-Wilson. Conley-Wilson is a community organizer, activist, and food-justice gardener. As the community empowerment coordinator at Soul Fire, they organize programming around such topics as racism in the food system and teaching children how to grow plants from seeds. They also engage directly with the community in their role as founder of Common Greens, a local community garden and education center. And at 26, Conley-Wilson is further spreading their message by running for city council in Troy on a platform of protecting renters and immigrants and committing to environmental stability. Eater: How do you see yourself making change in the food world with Soul Fire or any other projects you have going on? Kiani Conley-Wilson: My biggest impact is probably with Soul Fire. We focus on two things there: food apartheid — making sure that folks have enough food to eat and have agency over the food that’s growing and available to them — and stopping racism within the food system. I work on both of those with the Soul Fire in the City program, providing raised [garden] beds for folks. Sometimes I get to help harvest for our solidarity shares that go out to families and help those in need. I also do our training: It’s almost like an introduction to racism and the history of the food system and how it functions today, breaking down the ways that our food system has been and continues to be oppressive. I also have a community garden where I teach some kids on the block how to grow foo
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