We will not shrug our shoulders


I had the distinct honor of being invited to speak at the 32nd annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast at the Grove Park Inn this morning. If you’ve never attended, I urge you to get a ticket next year. You’ll be inspired by the legends in the room, people like Oralene Simmons and other founding members of ASCORE. People who integrated our city by putting themselves on the front lines and standing up for racial justice.
I had three minutes, here’s the text of my prepared remarks:

Good Morning!

I’m Asheville City Council Member Gordon Smith, and I want to thank Ms. Oralene Simmons and the Martin Luther King Jr. Association.

Mayor Bellamy sends her regards. She’s in Washington, D.C. representing Asheville at the National Conference of Mayors and inauguration, the reinauguration, of President Barack Obama.

I’m very honored to be here to celebrate Dr. King’s vision and our place in bringing it alive in Asheville. Dr. King famously said, “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day, education and culture for their minds, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Three meals a day. Three meals a day.

Today, as we come together over this fine meal there are families going hungry. And let me tell you what – you don’t have to look half a world away to find them. Right now, here in our community, there are children going without their breakfast. Others have food, but they lack the nutrition necessary for a healthy, developing mind. Too many in our community either do not have the means or the knowledge to meet their most basic of needs.

Is this acceptable? Is this acceptable??

No. This is unacceptable. We all know it’s unacceptable. Dr. King teaches us that when injustice presents itself, it is our responsibility not to turn away from it, but to address it.

We can address the issue of hunger in our community. We can do so with an audacious faith that, together, we can make a better world, right wrongs, and recognize that we are one human family – In my family, we don’t let other people go hungry.

For the last year and a half sometimes it feels like all I work on for City Council is food, water, and shelter. We’ll leave housing policy for another day, and I’d rather not talk about water…

But on food? I come today with good news and a call to action! On Tuesday, your Asheville City Council will take a historic step to reduce hunger, improve the health of our community, and strengthen our local food systems with the City of Asheville Food Action Plan.

This plan, with its five goals and fourteen initiatives will create the conditions for increased food production, processing, distribution, and education.

It will mean more people growing more food. You are going to see more gardens, more farms, more markets, more grocery stores, even food growing in our parks!

And this is the part where I ask for your help.

Folks, if we are truly committed to taking audacious steps to end hunger in Asheville and Buncombe County, then it’s time we Stop Mowing and Start Growing. Stop Mowing and Start Growing.

We can convert lawns to gardens, church fields to farms. By joining together in this mission we can come together – across generations, across cultures and across faiths to turn to lives of greater independence and better health.

We can come together to feed our community, our city, our county, our spirits.

We can ensure that every child has the nutrition they need to succeed in school and in life.

This will be justice, and it’s going to take all of us to make it a reality.

We will not shrug our shoulders at the injustice of hunger. We will aspire to justice through an audacious faith in our potential to make a better world.

Please join together in supporting the City’s Food Action Plan and in ending hunger in our community.

Thank you.


  1. TJ says:

    Thank you for having the audacity to speak about hunger at a breakfast, in a setting built for those who “have.”

    Dr. King would have liked that.

  2. Leslie Bland says:

    Stop mowing and start growing. I love it. What a wonderful speech, Gordon.

  3. randallt says:

    Actually the nice work comment was meant for this thread.

  4. Tom Sullivan says:

    Eating locally is looking increasingly like the better deal as a appetite for boutique health foods (like quinoa) has secondary effects,
    Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?:

    … in the case of quinoa, there’s a ghastly irony when the Andean peasant’s staple grain becomes too expensive at home because it has acquired hero product status among affluent foreigners preoccupied with personal health, animal welfare and reducing their carbon “foodprint”. Viewed through a lens of food security, our current enthusiasm for quinoa looks increasingly misplaced.

  5. Gordon Smith says:

    Sorry to see the BCGOP attacking the Food Action Plan even though prominent Republicans like Mark Cates were involved in its formation!

    From Twitter:

    Buncombe County GOP ?@BCGOP

    More central planning nonsense RT @gordondsmith: RT @CPublicPress Group to ask City Council for food-policy commitments http://ow.ly/gW1p5

  6. TJ says:

    So glad to see the food plan approved-even if it was 11pm.

    A lot of acknowledgments and recognitions (with applause). It’s good for people to be appreciated…

    Great meeting!

  7. Mark Cates says:

    Councilman Smith, I’m honored to be thought of as “prominent”, however I think that is a bit of a stretch.

    I also find it ironic that after falsely attacking me so many times, you would invoke my efforts in the food policy council to further your political agenda.

    Regarding the AB Food Policy Council, I would support non-partisan efforts to create good policy by any group of volunteers, but the AB Food Policy Council quickly morphed into a progressive wish list.

    This could have been prevented, but as you drove efforts from behind the scenes that’s the direction you decided to take it.

    I don’t speak for the Buncombe GOP, nor do I even speak for every Cates that lives in this town.

    But let’s be clear… you don’t speak for me and it’s truly unfortunate that you pushed the council in the direction you have.

  8. Gordon Smith says:

    Thanks for your help, Mark. I hope you’ve had an opportunity to review the City of Asheville Food Action Plan. It’s going to reduce hunger, improve public health, and strengthen our local food economy. These issues are non-partisan and they affect us all. There are so many talented, dedicated people who have made this process a success, and I count you as one of them.

  9. shadmarsh says:

    Just so we’re all clear, the BCGOP Twitter feed is managed by Michael Muller, who– for reasons that are beyond my ken (and my barbie)– has a personal ax to grind with Mr. Smith, and he has been using that account to further is own personal agenda/anger/delusions.

  10. Tom Sullivan says:

    “but the AB Food Policy Council quickly morphed into a progressive wish list … it’s truly unfortunate that you pushed the council in the direction you have.”

    Curious now. Are there unfortunate specifics?

  11. TJ says:

    I don’t seem to remember any of the council members looking distressed as they voted to approve the motion. Maybe I missed it due to late night blurriness.
    I also remember the applause (which Esther deftly handled, without the earth falling off its axis, without the Mayor there to slam her gavel). It was nice to see folks recognized and appreciated.

    Admittedly, I don’t have “behind the scenes” info (I’ll wait for the dvd to come out to see that portion), but, I think it IS “progress” if folks can eat well. Perhaps, there is an objection that folks might eat healthy, natural foods vs. microwaved and chemically treated foods?

    I don’t care if a Republican had come up with this, it would have been great.

    Oh, that’s right, many Republicans don’t think folks need to eat so much, and, after all, there are food banks they can beg from for “may, I have more, please.”

    And, Mark, I honestly don’t know what the issue is, so, if you don’t want to answer Shad, could you please fill me in? Otherwise, I see nothing but good, coming from sustainable foods and shaping communities to help themselves.

    That IS what we want, isn’t it?

  12. TJ says:

    Sorry, I missed the time limit.

    I was simply wanting to say I am hoping whatever differences there are about this are simply issues of the “how to’s. Like with the homeless issues here, there are several groups of people, many with varied ideas of how the issue should or can be addressed.

    Ultimately, if the issue is handled in a realistic, balanced way, I don’t have a problem with the minute detail. I wouldn’t even mind a tax increase, if it would help my neghbors and other folks I care about to be able to have the basic access to healthy foods we all have the choices of.