Milk Not Jails!

Written by Becca Kinsella for the Brooklyn Food Coalition

Lauren Melodia | Milk Not Jails

Lauren Melodia of Bedstuy, Brooklyn is not new to the food movement. Having spent the last seven years working in community gardens, as a staff member at local farmers markets and most recently managing a local farm share in Bedstuy, her collaboration with others to start the Milk Not Jails project may be seen as an extension of her previous experience. Lauren, in collaboration with others, started Milk Not Jails to simultaneously support local farmers and decrease rural upstate communities’ dependency on the prison system. The constituencies supported by the criminal justice system are the same as those supported by the agriculture system. Therefore, Milk Not Jails seeks to combine efforts and tackle both issues at the same time. Lauren explains, “for those that are politically active, we all want to get involved in one movement or one issue at a time, but everything is so interconnected. What we’re trying to do with Milk Not Jails is see how different movements can support each other.”

Milk Not Jails is grassroots campaign that has been volunteer run since it was founded in March 2010. The volunteers that comprise Milk Not Jails are urban and rural residents of New York state, food enthusiasts, prison families, farmers, and formerly incarcerated people. As mentioned, Milk Not Jails’ volunteers have two immediate goals for New York State. They would like to see communities invest in the agricultural economy in rural areas of New York. Milk Not Jails is concerned for the future of the food industry as it has been industrialized and continues to move further from a regional industry to a more global focused industry. The volunteers at Milk Not Jails believe that small farming and heritage processes are more sustainable than the global systems that exist but international policies make it more and more difficult for the small family farms or farms with animal friendly processes to survive. Secondly, Milk Not Jails aims to end the dependency on New York’s dysfunctional prison system. Lauren explains the dysfunction that exists in the criminal justice system, “there is no interest in crime prevention but rather an encouraged dependency on the system to serve as an economy for rural communities.”

Melodia with co-organizer Tychist Baker after being unlawfully arrested in Buffalo, NY

Despite being a young organization, Milk Not Jails has already seen many successes. Lauren notes that the campaign is built on relationships, both political and economical, that are mutually beneficial. In the past two years Milk Not Jails has gained the support of thirty criminal justice organizations, reached out to two hundred fifty farmers, and established rapport with individuals from both urban and rural areas. Lauren emphasizes that the key to establishing these relationships is coming up with a new and creative way to discuss issues that are not novel but rather have existed for some time without a means of discussing. Milk Not Jails is framing the importance of eating local or consuming from local farms in a very new way which is why being a part of networks such as the Brooklyn Food Coalition is so important to spreading the message in the

Milk Not Jail’s participation in the Brooklyn Food Conference will help educate the population in Brooklyn that is excited about eating fresh local produce. Brooklynites will learn about how consumption of these locally farmed goods will result in a movement against the dysfunctional policing that happens in their communities and will improve the food industry in their state. Milk Not Jails will be providing information from their table at the BFC about where residents can purchase locally sourced milk. For more information visit them online:


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