Southern Foodways Alliance

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Sometimes it’s easy to slide into a rhetorical blue funk when one sees how the good food movement is alternatively portrayed as elitist (or some such term), ignored and, yes, even vilified by what is popularly referred to as the ‘mainstream media’.

Maybe it’s as simple as this: food companies such as Kraft, Tyson or Ore-Ida buy more ad space and airtime than ‘Mom and Pop’s Little Farm Down the Road’.

The fact is that there is a tsunami of individuals, advocates and organizations doing a fantastic job of pushing forward the goals of the good food movement. Every day.

One of those organizations putting forth the good word for good food is Southern Foodways Alliance.

Since Alabama author and activist, John Egerton assembled 50 people for a two-day meeting in 1999, SFA has been ‘dedicated to the documentation and celebration of the diverse food cultures of the American South.’ SFA is operated under the aegis of The University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

This is how they talk about their mission:

The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. We set a common table where black and white, rich and poor—all who gather—may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation.

SFA’s series of symposia is rapidly becoming the food-centric gathering to attend. Their most recent meeting was the 16th Southern Foodways Symposium held October 4–6. The subject was Women at Work.

Describing the purpose of the conference:

 . . . the SFA will ask questions about how women farmers, artisans, and cooks have forged cultural identities, challenged gender conventions, built businesses, and driven economies.

Another way SFA documents this food culture is filmmaker Joe York’s 30 short films (so far!). He has done a tremendous job showcasing Southern farmers and artisans. Covering subjects from goat cheese to fried pies, from buttermilk to barbecue, he tells the stories behind the food–the very essence of the good food movement.

The fact is that there is a tsunami of individuals, advocates and organizations doing a fantastic job of pushing forward the goals of the good food movement.

When do the folks at SFA sleep?

In addition to their focused conferences and evocative films, SFA produces oral histories and podcasts (they call them Okracasts), as well as a deep bench of informative publications.

Southern Foodways Alliance is an organization which we all should support.

Have you seen their almost-famous ball caps? They’re fun, they have a great message, and a portion of all sales go to Southern Foodways Alliance. Buy one. Wear it loud and proud.

Check out their fantastic publications. From Gravy QuarterlySFA’s quarterly journal ‘portraying the diverse food cultures of the changing American South through creative nonfiction, narrative journalism, oral history, poetry, short fiction, recipes, and photography’ to The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook explaining ‘the diversity of the region’s cuisine’, Southern Foodways Alliance knows how to tell these rich stories.

Organizations use taglines as implied promises. Southern Foodways Alliance’s tagline is: ‘Document. Study. Celebrate.‘ They’re doing all that and much, much more.

What’s the organization on your radar touting the good food movement?

Photo credit: SFA