Featured in the Mercury chapter in Agents of Evolution
Mercury's Path of Evolution + Food Justice
Clare Fox needed to heal her body. She was accustomed to Pop Tarts and Hot Pockets—microwavable “foods”—but her growing community of social justice peeps started turning her on to nutritious foods at their potluck dinners. She remembers the moment as an adult when she meticulously followed the directions on the back of a bag of Trader Joe’s swiss chard, never before having attempted to cook that leafy green. That night she felt the promise of actually liking vege- tables, similar to the glimmer of feel-good you might get early on in a dating process. It was a moment of confluence for her, when multiple tributaries of meaningful experience all came together—community, health, vibrancy of mind, and food.
Clare went on to work with, and eventually became, the executive director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC), a nonprofit that works toward healthy, affordable, fair, and sustainable food for everyone. After ten years with the LAFPC, Clare became the vice president of Strategic Partnerships at Everytable, a private benefit corporation whose mission is “to transform the food system to make delicious, nutritious food accessible to everyone, everywhere.”
Clare recognizes the need for multiple stakeholders to have a say and influence inside our food systems. This itself is Mercury in action, because before the written word was acces- sible to the general public via the printing press, Mercury’s significations were more about commerce, or the currency flows that connect us. Clare is impassioned about strengthening everyone’s access to good food through two interconnected flows:
Development of robust public food policy. Most utilities are considered public rather than private, including water. We believe in our right to have water. Why not food?
- Social enterprises that lend capacity and infrastructure to move good food through our food systems to fulfill our right to food.
The shaping of systems is Mercury at work. Clare has devoted her professional life to helping shape our food systems.
My conversation with Clare illuminated something I didn’t fully understand about food systems until she spelled it out for me:
Food systems are what make food possible in our lives, and some people own and control and have access to it and many, many people do not. They don’t have agency or sovereignty within that system and, therefore, do not have access to this thing that is most essential for our lives: food. This is by design.
Clare explained to me how food systems are used as tools of oppression. Keep people from accessing nutritious food and you vastly limit their potential. When contemplating this through Mercury’s vantage point, I began to see how all currency flows—information, money, public resources, reputation, and identity—can either flow freely or get clogged up by human problems, like greed. Before speaking with Clare, I hadn’t considered how essential access to food is for a well-functioning Mercury.
“The mind belongs to the body, after all,” Clare mused. A well-nourished body is going to have a much better shot at a well-positioned mind than a malnourished body will.
“When we consume plants, we are taking in the intelligence of those life forms,” Clare says an old mentor of hers once taught.
Our intelligence, the quality of our mental state, the capacity of our body to produce generative thought, is literally a function of the food we eat.