FOOD: Growing through Dialogue
A TDC member institution, Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) is hosting an event on “The Politics of Food” and it aims to create a continuous dialogue on the growing need for local, sustainable food and the politics behind that need. As the entire country continues to struggle with the issue of child malnutrition and food deserts, MVCC is taking a step toward creating solutions simply by starting a conversation. Among the list of discussion questions MVCC is hoping to tackle during the event are:
“Is food a right or a privilege?”
“Consider the produce you like to eat. Are these food crops that are typically seen [locally]?”
“Consider the phrase ‘the democratization of food.’ What does this phrase mean to you?”
“Do you believe there are enough resources to feed every person on the planet? Why or why not?”
[For the complete list click here]
Students are asked to think about the food distribution system in the US critically. More so, they are asked to think about their own households and their daily food intake. Food is rarely a topic of critical thinking and discussion; eating what is available is simply a part of life, or even survival, especially if food choices are not plentiful. According to the EPA of the 35 million tons of foodwaste generated by the US in 2011, 96 percent of that was thrown into landfills. How much of that food could’ve been consumed by the millions of hungry people? When 14.9 percent of US households are food insecure, meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from. The USDA also points out that the problem with malnutrition and food desserts doesn’t rely on access to all or any food, but access to healthy and nutritious food. In addition, the USDA reported in 2009 that there are 2.3 million people in the US who live more than a mile from a grocery and do not own a car. That’s 2.2% of the country’s population who are likely to result in purchasing whatever food is easily available even if it’s unhealthy.
There are existing programs that help educate communities from entire towns to colleges such as, the Cooperative Extension System through the USDA. They are staffed by local produce experts in regions across the U.S. who provide research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and as well as communities of all sizes. There is also The People’s Garden grant program, which provides monetary support to organizations from town districts to colleges in order to initiate local sustainable gardens. Another TDC member institution, Kingsborough Community College established its year-round high-yielding urban farm in 2011 and offers trainings for students and faculty. The KCC farm works in conjuncture with classes across all disciplines to incorporate the farm into their curriculum (this initiative is not a part of The People’s Garden).
Nationwide the attention on food and the policies that drive its production and distribution is growing. Local and national organizations that focus on food and food policy are growing in numbers. Recently a documentary was released called, A Place at the Table. All this and more demonstrates that the silent call to action by the significant percentage of hungry people in the U.S. is slowly being addressed.
How has your community college taken on the topic of food and food production?