Live Real | Food Justice & Kuleana

Image courtesy of Live Real

Live Real is a national food justice initiative that is rooted in transformative social change. Born in 2009, Live Real is committed to working with youth, building a strong national food justice movement, telling the story of what is really happening in our food systems, and telling the whole story of how food arrives from seed to plate.
Their core values are:
  • Respect: For ourselves, for all people, and for our planet.
  • Eat: Honoring and really enjoying our food; knowing where it comes from and what it does for us; taking the time to savor it in good company.
  • Act: Living in health and dignity. Caring for ourselves, our families, our communities, and all people. Being true to ourselves—being real.
  • Live: Celebrating our communities and our cultures—appreciating what makes life worth living.
At the core of Live Real’s values is the idea of kuleana, a native Hawaiian word that has no direct translation in English. From their Web site: “Kuleana is a Hawaiian concept often translated as responsibility, although the real meaning is much deeper. It is more like “privilege and responsibility.”

“Kuleana means recognizing the privileges we have because of what our ancestors and others have done for us, then considering the responsibility we have to ourselves, our community, and the world because of that.
Kuleana is especially relevant to food. Almost all of us depend on someone or something else for what we eat. And those of us that are farmers depend on our customers, not to mention the people that first cultivated our plants or animals.”

Image courtesy of Live Real. From left to right: Navina Khanna, Anim Steel, Lloyd Nadal, Gerardo Marin, Doron Comerchero, and Nikki Henderson on the ground.

Their vision statement says it best:
“We envision a food system that truly works for We, the People.
A system where *real food* is the norm, not the exception.
If we succeed—and we MUST–vacant lots will become vibrant gardens. Family farms, food traditions, and wildlife will thrive. Our planet and climate will sustain us. Hard work will be fairly rewarded. And good health will be a birthright, not a struggle.
“That’s not all. We are creating a social culture that reflects our type of agri-culture. It’s a culture where where diversity is strength, where young and old work together, where both self-reliance AND interdependence are valued, and where youth have meaningful roles in the community and world.”

Live Real is stewarded by a core team of six that meet weekly via Skype, as they are located in different parts of the country. Core members include: Anim Steel, Lloyd Nadal, Hai Vo, Sam Lipschultz, Tim Galarneau, and Navina Khanna.  The larger community is made up of member representatives from community-based organizations, farm work justice activists, native justice folks, and people’s groceries from all over the nation.

Image by Siena Chrisman. From left to right: Gerardo Marin, Nikki Henderson, Navina Khanna, Sam Lipschultz, Maya Salsedo, Tim Galarneau, Hai Vo, and Anim Steel.

In addition to their community online organizing/e-organizing around food justice issues, Live Real also participates in many offline actions. In the next year, they will launch their 2011 Live Real Fellowship program that will help develop the capacity of young leaders. In addition, in celebration and recognition of the 50th anniversary of the 1960s Freedom Riders for racial justice, Live Real will launch their own Food and Freedom Rides. From the ‘hood to the heartland, they’ll travel the country, participating in national and local actions, organizing teach-ins on food policy and organic food justice, and joining demonstrations.

They will also be running intensive leadership institutes for food justice organizers, called Real Food Organizers.  And they are committed to lifting up popular consciousness on the national Farm Bill, which is due for revision in 2012.

Image by Siena Chrisman. From left to right: Anim Steel, Gerardo Marin, Lloyd Nadal, Brett Ramey, and Maya Salsedo.

Live Real encourages all people to eat real food. They define real food as, “…food that’s good for the people who eat it and grow it, doesn’t harm the earth, and improves our neighborhoods.
“It’s food grown with methods that improve the soil, food made from real ingredients instead of chemicals, grown by workers who were treated well and farmers who are getting a fair share of the profits, that everyone can afford, and that comes from nearby—so the money you spend goes to your neighbor instead of to a big corporation on the other side of the world…A real food system is win-win-win for people, communities, and the earth.”

Eating real food, and living real, begins at the individual level.  On their Web site, you can join other Live Real members in their online commitments to compost and shop at farmer’s markets.  Or, you can make your own commitments to lift up another aspect of food system justice.

Live Real is a great example of the balance between inner and outer work in service to food justice, interconnectedness, and transformation.  They recognize that food justice is about more than just food.  It touches the way we live, the way we choose to live, and lifts up the tangible connection between ourselves, others, and the planet.


  1. […] 2009, Navina co-founded Live Real, a national initiative that encourages, advocates, and demonstrates transformative social change […]

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