Sometime in the late 1970’s the San Francisco Bay Area became the birthplace of a social movement called The Food Conspiracy. The name described a collaborative spirit of resistance that brought neighbors together to move their financial support away from institutions whose values did not reflect their own. Their act of resistance was to pool their resources in order to purchase food directly from independent farmers and small distributors. The conspiracy began by establishing a list of essential goods and then encouraged members to volunteer for specific roles retrieving them from local farms or markets, or hosting distribution outposts in their basement or garage.
The Food Conspiracy was the philosophical forbear of the Farm to Table movement which despite its influence on upscale menus, still has tenuous roots in the broader American culinary consciousness.
While many early San Francisco food conspirators went on to establish longstanding food-cooperatives and organic markets, many have disappeared to be replaced by corporate-owned franchises and only a few stalwart members of the original movement actually remain. Among them include Other Avenues Cooperative in the Outer Sunset district which opened in 1974, and Rainbow Grocery in the Mission district, which began as a bulk food-buying program for a local Ashram.
The idea of using collective locally-organized food sourcing and distribution as a means of community organizing and political education remains more important today than ever, especially among growing numbers of disadvantaged and disenfranchised urban dwellers.