With the beginning of any project, class, or new opportunity I always go into things with some kind of expectations. The reality of is never what I expected it to be, but there is usually something new to be learned and take away from the experience. This semester in UNIV 215: Food for Thought, I have taken away lessons and knowledge I would never have expected to including food injustices, food insecurity within my own community, and the highs and lows non-profits promoting food advocacy face firsthand. With help from in class activities, readings and lectures, and working with our non-profit organizations these concepts have enabled me to open my mind to new possibilities with food and have inspired me to apply what I learned to everyday life.
The array of disturbing articles we have read this semester has been overwhelming. It has become apparent to me that our food system has so many injustices and problems with it, I honestly don’t know if our society’s future looks so bright. In Michael Pollan’s article ‘Our National Eating Disorder’ the author discusses the main problems with American food fads. Pollan out lies how the power of the way we have learned to see food impacts our country’s health. Americans have an obsession with eating healthy, yet we have one of the unhealthiest diets compared to other countries. 3 of every 5 Americans are overweight and 1 of every 5 Americans is obese. The psychological component that comes with how we see food will not be easy to adjust because of the way our minds have adapted to crave certain unhealthy foods, but it’s a start in improving our country’s health. Initially I wasn’t that familiar with the industrialization food system and exactly how the food we eat is made. I appreciated when our class was assigned video lectures to listen to and critically think about to be more knowledgeable about what we discussed in class. A range of issues were introduced and were shocking to me including, industrialization’s effect on the depletion of our planet’s organic matter, the amount of antibiotics and synthetic hormones we feed food animals, and the arsenical drugs used for growth promotion that have numerous negative health affects when consuming the food that they’re in. It was interesting to me to learn that all of these toxic efforts are to make our food “better”, chickens more plump, or faster to produce, yet we are killing ourselves in the process. The problems with our food system don’t en there. These reading analyses go more in depth on the things the articles went over and what I have learned:
It took taking this course to become aware of the reality that food insecurity is very prevalent in my own community. Working with the non-profit organizations, ReEstablish Richmond, Peter Paul, and the VCU Ram Pantry really opened our eyes and allowed us to work hands on with food issues people of the Richmond community face everyday. I worked mainly with ReEstablish Richmond which helps refugees forced to flee from their home countries, resettle here in Richmond and adapt to a new and better life. These refugees are thrown into a new place with unfamiliar food sources. Language barriers, travel limitations, and high food prices are all a combination of factors that enhance food insecurity for them. Although I didn’t work directly with the Ram Pantry I felt I could identify with the client base our class was working with. People who visit the Ram Pantry are college students just like me who struggle to have enough money and time to grocery shop for food. It’s meaningful to me to know that the school I go to actually cares for their students’ well beings and have set up a system to make food insecurity for these students a little less difficult. Peter Paul Developmental Center was another organization students from our class worked with. This non-profit focused on teaching children of the Richmond community about nutrition and ways to live healthy lifestyles. Food insecurity is prevalent in Richmond households due to low income and not having access to food education. Hearing the experiences from students who worked with Peter Paul had and seeing the struggles families face everyday with not having enough food, saddened me and made me grateful for the opportunities I have available to me. These blog posts from my food blog elaborate more on the information I have learned about food insecurity:
Being able to work with non-profit organizations one on one has proved to be quite an experience with many ups and downs along the way. The non-profit my group and I chose to work directly with was ReEstablish Richmond and the director of the company, Kimberly Compton. Food advocacy within the organization was mainly geared towards having the refugees become familiar with foods that are available to them now that they have resettled in Richmond. Many of the refugees don’t speak the English language and it is hard for them travel such distances to a grocery store to be able to get food. ReEstablish Richmond helps refugees by teaching them the bus routes to food sources and ways to have access to healthy food option. The organization is a young non-profit, only have started in 2010, and they still experience many setbacks that my group experienced firsthand. Early on in the semester we had planned to participate in nutrition workshops for the refugees but were sadly disappointed to find out that the grants for the workshops fell through. We learned that this is common with many non-profits because things don’t always go according to plan because limited capital is an issue. It was sad to me to think here we were ready to make a difference within the lives and health of people in the community, but a major obstacle was holding us back. My group didn’t accomplish everything we set out to do with ReEstablish Richmond we were proud of ourselves for having this experience together and staying positive to make a difference.