College hosts inaugural week focused on food justice
This week, the Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) and Campus Ministry are hosting their annual food drive for the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, marking the College’s first Food Justice Week.
Rebekah DeLine, director of the OCSE, said teaching students about the principles of food justice fulfills the focus Saint Mary’s is placing on their core value of justice this year.
“It’s a justice issue,” she said. “Through Catholic social teaching, we believe in the dignity of all, and one of the very basic needs of people is to eat and have access to nourishing food. If they’re ignoring those basic needs, how can they think about other needs like education or medical needs? If they can’t eat, it doesn’t matter.”
One of the goals for the year was to expand the food drive into a week that provides more context as why food donation is necessary, she said.
“For many years, my office has run a non-perishable food collection,” she said. “This year, one of my goals was to do more. We are still doing our non-perishable food drive, but on top of that, we have planned several events that we hope will get the students, staff and faculty to think a little more about the access issues and insecurity issues surrounding food.”
DeLine said Food Justice Week will feature three main events that include a banquet, panel discussion and cooking night. Tuesday’s Hunger Banquet will focus on food insecurity across the globe, she said.
“The first event is with Student Diversity Board on Tuesday, and that’s the Hunger Banquet,” she said. “That’s a global look at food insecurity and how, even in different countries, there’s more challenges with food insecurity than ever.”
The Hunger Banquet will place attendees in one of three socioeconomic classes: lower, middle and upper. This aims to open up a dialogue about the disparity in food accessibility and affordability, according to an email from Student Diversity Board.
This dialogue and education is what Food Justice Week aims to do on a larger scale as well, which is to give students an individual connection to the issue, DeLine said.
“It’s a big part of our growing awareness. Educating each person individually helps us be able to respond better,” DeLine said. “It’s one thing to throw a can of soup in a bin, but there’s little connection to the deeper issues.”
DeLine said Wednesday’s panel discussion features four experts from the community.
“On Wednesday, we will have four local experts come in and discuss food access here in South Bend,” she said. “One woman is from the health department and she will talk about their work, and look at the county as a whole to find out where there are food deserts, food access issues and how they can tackle those issues. Another woman on the panel is from Unity Gardens, which is one major garden and other community gardens where they help plant and harvest food that’s free for everybody. Their approach to food access is very interesting because they’re looking at fresh food, but they’ve also come up with some programs to help people overcome the barriers when it comes to fresh food, like how to prepare it.”
Emily Sipos-Butler, assistant director to Campus Ministry, said she was glad DeLine reached out to her and got her involved in Food Justice week.
“This is something that is near and dear to my heart, the idea of faith in action and faith working towards justice,” she said.
Sipos-Butler said Campus Ministry will be co-sponsoring Thursday’s event, which is Cooking and Conversation.
“For me, the motivation is faith, but for other students it may be something else and that’s totally fine, so, from the Campus Ministry perspective, I want to help students connect their faith life with their work in the world,” she said. “One of the ways we’re doing that is on Thursday, Campus Ministry is co-sponsoring a Cooking and Conversation, food insecurity event. We’re going to prepare a meal together, we’re going to look at access of healthy food in our community through the eyes of someone who is poor. So, we’ll look at how we can prepare inexpensive, healthy meals.”
This event, and Food Justice Week as a whole, gives the Saint Mary’s community a chance to increase their knowledge of ways they can get themselves involved in decreasing food insecurity, Sipos-Butler said.
“The need is throughout our community and through this Food Justice Week we hope to raise awareness about food insecurity in general, and specifically how it affects our community, why we should care and how we can make a difference because Belles are great at making a difference,” Sipos-Butler said.