Author: Sydney Bowman
An array of student organizations on campus are uniting this October under a common cause: food justice.
Since 2010, students have dedicated the month of October to raising awareness about injustices in the food system in the hopes that the campus will become more sustainable and conscious about food choices, according to Susan Young, director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual life (ORSL).
Student coordinators, along with members of Food, Energy and Sustainability Team (FEAST), La Raza Coalition, the Public Health Club, Muslim Student Association, Active Minds, Campus Dining and Programming Board have planned events throughout the month.
October will feature numerous events and programs relating to food justice including food trucks, a fermentation workshop, harvest fair and themed meals in the Marketplace. Students can learn more about the dates and locations of these events throughout the month via on-campus advertising, according to FEAST Vice President Skye Harnsberger (junior).
FEAST is a central organization involved in the planning of Food Justice Month and will be hosting several workshops and a keynote speaker, sustainability authority Nikki Silvestri. Silvestri will be speaking on the intersection of food justice, food security and racial and class inequalities, as well as the issues surrounding the quantity-over-quality food system in the United States, according to Food Justice Month Coordinator Dylan Bruce (senior).
Organizers from the Eagle Rock Farmer’s Market will be on campus during the Food Day Harvest Fair Oct. 22 to share locally-grown and sustainably-sourced food with the community. La Raza Coalition will also be present at the Harvest Fair, where it will be involved in educating students about how underrepresented populations face food disparities.
ORSL will be hosting a yearly student fall break retreat, Oct. 9–11 in Ojai, California. Students will volunteer with the Farmer and the Cook, a restaurant that partners with a local farm, to learn more about the organic food movement in conjunction with Food Justice Month.
Young explained that the retreat is meant to let students take time to regroup emotionally and spiritually. They will also have the chance to look at some of the issues that fall under the theme of food justice, such as the drought, organic farming and food access for low-income communities.
“Our office likes to encourage students to think about how their ethical, philosophical, religious or spiritual world views form and understand their commitment to justice work,” Young said.
Food Justice Month Coordinator Camilla Getz (junior) hopes that this month’s programs will expose students to food issues that will ultimately affect the way they think about their roles as consumers within the market.
“Food Justice Month at Occidental is about shifting the way that we eat and the way we connect with food so that we can promote systematic change and begin to address those issues through education, direct action and conscientious consumption,” Getz said.
Getz explained that there are numerous examples of injustices within the food system in the Los Angeles area, particularly concerning agricultural production.
“This issue is pertinent to Oxy because every one of us as individuals have power to make decisions in what food we purchase,” Getz said. “There are a lot of foods in the Marketplace that comply with the Real Food Challenge, meaning they are sustainably sourced, ecological, local and humane. We have the power to support those practices.”
Harnsberger said that while these foods are more expensive to buy in the Marketplace, their purchase sends an important message to Campus Dining that students care about sustainability.
Bruce explained the complexity and wide range of issues that food justice brings to the table.
“Food is a baseline for wherever you’re at in society and is a uniting factor,” Bruce said. “It relates directly to a host of other justice issues, including environmental, social and racial justice.”
Food Justice Month will focus in on how underrepresented populations are disproportionately affected by injustices within the food system, according to Getz. One of the key issues marginalized populations face is the creation of food deserts, which deny people access to fresh produce and can have catastrophic consequences, especially when communities are not educated on healthy eating.
According to Harnsberger, food justice plays a powerful role in elevating people of color, who are often affected by low-income jobs in the food industries.
“I think raising awareness about food justice is really important because it is one of those issues that goes overlooked,” Harnsberger said. “It’s so easy to consume food without thinking about where it has been grown, where it has been produced and how it’s been distributed.”
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