Our KFPC potlucks have a well-deserved reputation as the best potluck in town! When we gathered together last month, for our first potluck since the start of the pandemic, I took my first bite and almost immediately had tears come to my eyes. Don’t get me wrong – the food was incredibly delicious – but that first bite represented both the deep joy of eating together again and the two years of loss and struggle our community has experienced.
What is a potluck? What do they do for us, as a grassroots network working together for a more just and resilient food system? Like adrienne maree brown suggests in Pleasure Activism, we are learning to make justice and liberation the most pleasurable collective experiences we could have, and I think our potlucks – the joy of sharing food and company with each other – have been a big part of how KFPC has worked together so effectively over the last 25 years.
The pandemic has required us to make so many changes, and losing the ability to gather and eat together has been something many of us have grieved. But, we also experimented with new options, and had the opportunity to do some important reflection about accessibility, care and safety. We’re asking ourselves the challenging question: what can we do to create truly welcoming and inclusive spaces for our network? This is a question that applies to those who are at high risk from COVID-19, but also to those who experience other barriers to participation, such as neurodiversity, social anxiety, or financial barriers.
“We have the opportunity to emerge from this time period with an enhanced understanding of what it means to be good to one another.” (DanceSafe and Consent Culture Initiative)
Here are some of the evolving principles and practices the KFPC will be keeping in mind as we plan ways for our network to gather, learn together and collaborate over the next season of the pandemic:
- We think creatively about how we gather. We acknowledge that not every meeting or gathering format will work for the diverse needs of the individuals in our network, so we are working more intentionally to create different options for “meeting containers” to meet different needs. For the foreseeable future, this will include:
- In-person potlucks, the first Wednesday of every second month. Our potlucks will be in a “picnic or potluck” format that acknowledges different comfort levels with eating together indoors. You are welcome to bring your own picnic, bring a potluck dish to share, or even to choose to eat at home beforehand – all choices are respected.
- Online book club gatherings, the first Wednesday of every alternate month
- Volunteer opportunities that are outdoors whenever possible
- Workshops with in-person and online live streaming or recorded options whenever possible
- We organize our practices to support those most at risk. As Mia Mingus, a writer for disability justice and transformative justice writes, “Interdependence acknowledges that our survival is bound up together, that we are interconnected and what you do impacts others” (Mia Mingus). At the KFPC, we are learning how to act in solidarity with disabled people and communities. For us right now, it means continuing to be mindful of how higher risk members of our community can feel safe and welcomed to our network, and planning our practices around their needs.
- We practice consent culture. We encourage all of our network members to learn about consent culture, and start practicing consent-informed conversations that support safety, mutual respect, and boundary setting in many contexts beyond COVID-19. In a helpful guide from the Consent Culture Initiative, they write: “We can never be 100% sure that being exposed to someone is safe without a negative COVID test result and sufficient quarantining, but we can have thorough and open conversations about our safety practices that are based on mutual respect, trust, and care. This kind of communication allows us to make informed decisions” (DanceSafe and Consent Culture Initiative).
- When we gather in person, we keep each other safe. We invite anyone attending our events to consider their responsibilities to follow public health guidelines and be proactive about staying home when you feel sick. We strongly encourage network members choosing to attend in-person gatherings to practice the layers of protection in the swiss cheese model (because we love a good food pun!), including vaccination, masking, physical distancing and hand washing. These practices are important acts of care you can take to keep others safe, especially those at higher risk. According to current public health guidance, we will not be requiring vaccine confirmation or mandatory masking at our events, but we do trust that if you choose to attend, you will take your responsibilities to each other seriously. To support safe in person practices, the KFPC has rapid tests and KN-95 masks available at no cost for anyone attending a network event.
- We communicate transparently about our accessibility practices, and our limitations. We aim to provide clear and transparent information about each event, whether in-person or online, so that you’ll know what to expect, and can make informed decisions around your ability to participate. If you have needs that aren’t addressed in our communications, we hope you’ll feel comfortable letting us know how we can do better. We’re also actively doing our own reading and listening to people from the disability community who have generously offered guidance. We know we’ll make mistakes along the way, but we’re committed to growing and improving the accessibility we can offer.
If gathering in person with us is something that would bring you joy in these times, we would love to see you at our next network potluck on June 1! Be sure to join the KFPC mailing list to hear the details about our potlucks and other opportunities.
(Written by Lindsay Harris)