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September 30, 2008

The sustainable food movement has come of age – we have begun attaching “in” as a suffix to things. Gordon Jenkins, BK ’06, pioneered the idea of the eat-in, a form of celebratory protest that involves eating in a public space, along with Australian food activist Dave Prior. More than 250 people attended the first eat-in they held this labor day in Dolores Park in San Francisco. We’ll be giving you updates as the situation develops, but in the meantime, Gordon has released a website with more information.

The eat-in is an attempt to build the radical youth contingent of the slow food movement. As the institutional arms of the movement start to grow, radicals and guerillas will continue to play an essential role. Subsidy reform, school-lunch programs, food-access legislature — these are the things that success will be built out of, but that kind of real reform will be impossible without a certain degree of shouting, fiery spectacle.

An eat-in is a form of celebratory protest. On the website, Gordon lists recommendations, guidelines and ideas for hosting eat-ins in your own community, but seeing as there has only been one, there is room for exploration. The one in Dolores Park involved professional chefs, event managers and permission from the city, but an eat-in can be what you make of it.

As I conceive of eat-ins, I tend to lean toward remembering that civil rights weren’t won by sitting-in places where African-Americans were supposed to be. A sit-down meal of roast chicken in a Popeye’s drive-thru wouldn’t make friends with the local police, but it would send a message.

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