Last Blog: Food Justice and Final Thoughts

By: Hannah Franco

The food system in the United States is flawed. Like a lot of the issues that plague U.S. institutions and systems, the flaws in our food system can be tied to this country’s capitalist structure and history of racism. In the Galvis reading, he argues that the food system works in favor of helping a privileged minority and therefore, “distribuyendo desproporcionadamente las ‘externalidades’ sociales y ambientales a grupos raciales estigmatizados”[1]. I would support this statement and further argue that this tactic to other is most essential in order to maintain that small and powerful group of elites. Additionally, black and brown bodies have historically been othered for centuries. It is no surprise then or far-fetched to state that poorer neighborhoods of BIPOC communities in the United States suffer the brunt of our food system’s flaws. As discussed in class, these communities experience food insecurity and, compared to their white, wealthier counterparts, they lack access to quality foods. Poor communities live within neighborhoods called food deserts, a term defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “a low-income tract where a substantial number or substantial share of residents does not have easy access to a supermarket or large grocery store”[2]. South Los Angeles is known for being a food desert, as it has a sea of fast-food options and liquor stores and only a handful of affordable, healthy places.

I currently live near USC in South Los Angeles; however, I experience the food situation differently than a permanent resident. Permanent residents to South LA are generally low-income and so places like Trader Joe’s are not feasible. On the other hand, I and other USC students are lucky enough to have the means to afford these healthy grocery stores. This dynamic illustrates the disparity that exists and how it can disproportionately disadvantage the lower income communities to unhealthy food options and lifestyles.

Looking at the SNAP budget of $200 a month is distressing. When I get groceries at Trader Joe’s, I like to buy fresh produce and my weekly purchases amount roughly $50-60. On top of that, I have the ability to eat out 1-2 times a week and buy daily coffees. The budget offered on SNAP is extremely bare minimum and is stress-inducing over having enough food on the table each night.  

This class was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed every field trip we went on because I would 1) eat great food and 2) get to explore a new part of Los Angeles. My favorite place we visited were the restaurants in Boyle Heights. It’s on my to-do list this summer to go back with family and friends to support the ‘gentefied’ community. I was also lucky enough to take this class with so many other seniors that I recognized from my other Spanish classes. I took a lot of my Spanish classes online and so it was nice to take such a fun class in person with all my peers. Hadee and Anya were especially great classmates and group project partners! Glad we got to spend out last semester at USC together in SPAN 385.


[1]  https://www.academia.edu/39102792/Desmantelando_el_Racismo_del_Sistema_Alimentario_Food_First_https_foodfirst_org_desmantelando_el_racismo_del_sistema_alimentario_8

[2] https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/05/03/interactive-web-tool-maps-food-deserts-provides-key-data#:~:text=In%20the%20Food%20Desert%20Locator,supermarket%20or%20large%20grocery%20store.

A garden among the playground

By Angie Orellana Hernandez

When I first heard we were visiting a garden embedded in an elementary school, I had presumed that it would be a small space growing essential vegetables.

I was familiar with the concept of urban agriculture through another trip I took a few years ago to an urban farm near Exposition Park. The worker there told me that the farm’s very foundation was providing community-based garden education to better food accessibility in South Central.

I remember the farm was small, but it made use of every inch that it had. And upon my visit to the 24th Street Elementary School garden, I realize that a similar thread of urban agriculture is growing to combat food insecurity.

The very principles of this begin with acknowledging that over 80% of the United States population live in urban areas, and that within that percentage, many families do not have accessible nutritional assets such as organic fruits and vegetables. 

As a result of this, the article “La agricultura urbana un brote de esperanza entre cinturones de asfalto” states that “Las consecuencias son devastadoras: obesidad, diabetes y enfermedades cardiovasculares.”

Often, this is a result of systemic and environmental racism that places communities of color in a bind with what access they have to green spaces that can grow food of nutritional value. For example, being from South Sacramento, a low-income neighborhood with houses and apartments tightly packed together, I’ve noticed that community gardens do not exist in the area. This is not the case in the wealthier neighborhoods in Sacramento, where there are ample parks and lots of space to devote a garden too.

The most stark difference of it all is the accessibility that comes with grocery shopping. In South Sacramento, there are cheap grocery stores, but there is rarely the kind that offers organic and healthy food, such as a Trader Joe’s. 

As time passed, however, there has been more of an effort to incorporate community gardens into the area. My elementary school has one tiny garden that often goes unmaintained because of the short staff, but the idea remains there. 

As Karen Washington writes in “How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System,” “People began community gardens collectively, coming together to change something that was devastated into something that is beautiful. Community gardens were a way to take ownership and to control the food and economics in our neighborhoods.”

Establishing community gardens and other urban agricultural places allows for the community to reclaim such spaces. However, the problem with community gardens is that they are often poorly advertised or run on volunteership alone, which is a great and notable thing, but can often come with burnout. Especially in places which are run by a small number of people, it can be hard to maintain a garden as part of volunteership and devote proper time for it to flourish into something an entire community can use.

For example, while USC technically has a garden, not many people know about it. This lends itself a problem to those who need the fresh vegetables and gardens, and it also is problematic to those who want to help maintain the garden but are unsure of where to go. 

The folks over at 24th Street Elementary, however, have seemed to figure this out by incorporating the students into the garden maintenance and by creating a program where local community members are hired into the cafeteria and composting program. This, in my opinion, provides great motivation for the community to get involved. 

My overall takeaway from the experience is how much potential there is with teaching the next generation of students how to get involved in garden education. This allows them to learn to grow fruits and vegetables, while understanding what they can possibly make from them (such as the strawberry avocado salsa) and how they can incorporate such lessons into their future lives.

Class reflection

I took this class to learn more about Los Angeles, and to also help me along my journey to become less of a picky eater. I can gladly say that I have accomplished both.

One of the first memories I think of was when we took the field trip to Boyle Heights because even though I’m a senior, I had never been there before. I remember being hesitant about the taco because I had never eaten one that looked like that — I used to be solely a chicken taco with cilantro and a little bit of guacamole and salsa person — so the only thing that run through my head was how embarrassing it would be if I didn’t eat the taco with everyone in front of me.

The risk paid off though because it was one of the best things I had ever eaten. My all-time favorite place we went to though was Mariscos Jalisco because I had never tried a shrimp taco before and that changed my life forever.

Among the topics we discussed, I think one that will stay with me forever was the topic of street vendors and the fight for the legalization of their businesses. This is especially due to the visit from Merced Sanchez who so generously told us about her experiences. 

What I’ll ultimately takeaway is how important it is to look at food from various sorts of angles — including authenticity, its criminalization, what we consider to be fine dining, the globalization aspects, etc, in order to become better eaters. While I may have not reached the level of Jonathan Gold in one semester, I can at least say I have become a better consumer. 

Works Cited
“How urban agriculture can fight racism in the food system,” https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/
La agricultura urbana un brote de esperanza entre cinturones de asfalto – Los Angeles Times

Solutions to the Unjust Food System and a Reflection on the Class by Abhinav

The food system in the US is one that favors the wealthy, and this is by design. Karen Washington argues that our food system is not broken, but “working exactly the way it’s supposed to: as a caste system based on demographics, economics, and race” (Washington). There exists a deep structural racism that underpins the issues that marginalized communities face when it comes to accessing healthy and affordable food. The current food system is controlled by white men, and marginalized communities that are predominantly people of color have no ownership or control over the system, and Washington states that laws enforce this lack of control. This results in serious problems for those living in these neighborhoods. Ron Finley offers the perfect example of this issue, South LA: “This is South Los Angeles. Liquor stores, fast food, vacant lots” (Finley). The unjust food system results in a lack of access to healthy food and therefore high rates of obesity, and a severe lack of proper nutritional education.

The solution to solve these problems with the food system is to take back control over food ownership. As Finley says: “Growing your own food is like printing your own money” (Finley). By growing your own food, you are able to take more control over what you eat and circumvent the unfair food system. Finley’s vegetable gardens in South LA are evidence to the potential for this to succeed. Another example is 24th Street Elementary, and the work that Garden School Foundation has done there. As we learned from Tatiana, some of what the garden in the school does includes feeding families who need it through donations and giving children important food education on cooking and nutrition. It is clearly a bastion of food justice and community health. However, while growing food is a start, Washington elaborates that there exists a bigger need to change the dynamics of the power structure itself. Marginalized communities should own their food economy not just through growing food but learning about financial literacy, building social capital, and building wealth. She offers the example of the Black Farmer Fund, which helps put back the power in the hands of minorities.

Unfortunately, these solutions are still very difficult to implement. The apathy shown by the government towards these problems means that the communities are often entirely on their own or fighting against the government if they want to take back control. There is also the fact that the nature of many big cities discourages ownership of food systems. Alvarado writes about community gardens in Los Angeles: “El elevado costo de la propiedad, la falta de espacios y la escasez de agua son las principales barreras para que abran más aquí” (Alvarado). Such drawbacks mean that communities trying to take control of food systems are always fighting an uphill battle.

Reflections

I went into this class knowing virtually nothing about Hispanic food, or the culture of food in LA. Although I am much more educated now having spent a semester learning about it, what I am happier about is the fact that I have now discovered an entire universe of food that is still mostly unexplored and that I enjoy immensely. I also greatly appreciated the field trips, because through those I was able to ground my learning in real life contexts to solidify it with concrete examples. Some of my highlights throughout the class include the octopus tacos I had at Holbox, eating ceviche while we were exploring Peruvian food, making our own Lomo saltado, and trying mole for the first time.

In terms of the themes of what we learned in class, two of my favorites to learn about were street vendors and the idea of cultural/culinary appropriation. These were two themes that I had limited knowledge of before, and exploring street vendors as some of the unsung heroes in the food system and the controversies around culinary appropriation really interested me. I was also surprised but fascinated that many of the themes we studied in class I could easily relate to my past experiences growing up in India and Indonesia. This really helped me with my understanding and gave me a personal connection to everything we learned.

I hope to take these experiences and what I have learned and continue exploring Latinx food and culture in the years to come. This was one of if not the best class I have taken at USC, and it was certainly the most unique and engaging.

Works Cited:

Alvarado, Isaías. “Migrantes ‘Sanan’ En Jardines Comunitarios.” La Opinión, La Opinión, 6 Sept. 2014, https://laopinion.com/2014/09/06/migrantes-sanan-en-jardines-comunitarios/.

Finley, Ron. “A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA.” TED Talk. TED2013, Feb. 2013.

Washington, Karen. “Op-Ed: How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System.” Civil Eats, 10 July 2020, https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/.

Crónicas De Una Mexicana: La Conclusión

Por Jennifer De Anda Plascencia

Our food system has been, is, and will continue to be, at least in the near future, flawed and inadequate in offering equal food access to all. As mentioned by Ana Galvis in her Food First article, “El sistema alimentario es injusto e insostenible, pero no está roto – funciona precisamente como el sistema alimentario capitalista siempre ha funcionado; concentrando el poder en manos de una minoría privilegiada y distribuyendo desproporcionadamente las ‘externalidades’ sociales y ambientales a grupos raciales estigmatizados.” Like Galvis explains, our food system is rooted in capitalist and racist practices that concentrate access to healthy and nutritious foods in the hands of white and wealthy communities, whereas low-income communities of color are oftentimes categorized as food swamps. While one may see Whole Foods supermarkets and Trader Joe’s grocery stores in places like Westwood and Beverly Hills, there are few to none of these stores in places like South Gate and Boyle Heights. Instead, these low-income communities of color see an abundance of liquor stores and fast-food chains. For example, South Central is a historically under resourced and predominantly Black and Latinx region of Los Angeles and it was only until the USC Village was built that this community saw a store like Trader Joe’s with more healthy and organic food options. It took the expansion of a wealthy and predominately white institution to bring healthier food options into a community that would otherwise be ignored by our food system.

So how can we address some of the issues within our food system that further marginalize groups of people who are already struggling? One approach is urban agriculture and community gardens like the one at 24th Street Elementary School. Urban agriculture, according to Wikipedia, is “the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas.” Given the fact that many of those who live in low-income and under resourced communities are often concentrated around large metropolitan cities and lack access to unprocessed healthy foods, gardening and growing food is a great way to address the absence of nutritional foods in said communities. As Tatiana was mentioning to us during our visit to 24th Street Elementary School, not only do the students get to spend quality time outside while gardening but they also get to learn the basics of how to cultivate different foods that they then get to share with their families. If this were to be done on a larger level, the impact could greatly address some of the obstacles low-income communities of color face in relation to our faulty food system. However, it is important to note that “…growing food isn’t enough. We need to address the structural, industrial, and environmental determinants that reinforce racism in our society” (Washington). Although community gardens and growing food in urban areas are steps in the right direction, more must be done to rid society of the institutions and systems in place that allowed for our food system to function the way it does.

I have gone on a rollercoaster with this class. From having to get D-clearance because I’m not a Spanish major to the registration being closed and somehow, miraculously, ending up with a spot, this class has stood out among others and has easily become my favorite class at USC. Profe Portnoy and her SPAN 385 class have taught me about the cultural importance of food, how food impacts identity, the ways in which food and cooking are gendered, the absence of nutritious, healthy, and culturally appropriate food in low-income and under resourced communities, and many other topics. Through our deep and meaningful discussions about these topics I felt as though I was getting to understand my mother and her relationship with cooking a bit better, while also learning about street vendors, food justice, and Latinx food culture. One of the topics we discussed, which we read about in Professor Abarca’s book Voices in the Kitchen, was the kitchen as a space versus a place and this resonated with me because of my own experiences in the kitchen as a young Mexican woman and because of my mom’s love for the kitchen and cooking. Professor Abarca does a great job at differentiating between the kitchen as a place that limits women and enforces gender roles/norms and the kitchen as a space for women to have agency and creative liberty. While my mom views the kitchen as a space, given her love for cooking and experimenting with recipes, I oftentimes view the kitchen as a place meant to restrict me. Although I know cooking is an essential life skill and although I do sometimes enjoy it, I have seen the way the women in my life are forced to prep, cook, and clean at all times simply because of their gender. I want cooking to be something I enjoy and something I seek to do rather than something I must do because I am a woman. Overall, this class has made me reflect on my life and the role food plays in it. I hope to continue learning about food this summer as I explore Oaxaca and its cuisine with the Profe, can’t wait!

Works Cited:

Galvis, Ana. “Desmantelando El Racismo Del Sistema Alimentario.” Food First, https://foodfirst.org/desmantelando-el-racismo-del-sistema-alimentario/.

“Urban Agriculture.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_agriculture.

Washington, Karen. “Op-Ed: How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System.” Civil Eats, 16 July 2020, https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/.

Urban Gardens: Empowering Communities

By Maddie House

At 24th street elementary school community garden, the students in the school take gardening classes where they learn to grow and cook healthy, fresh foods. In a community that faces many inequities, particularly in access to food, the garden serves as a community center to promote long-term healthy eating and health. Families are able to pick up food when necessary, and pre-COVID, the garden was open to anyone in the community. The program also focuses on the well-being of the environment by having a compost system and a lunch system that prevents wasting of food. Saving trash from going to the landfill and taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change also contribute to long-term healthy changes in marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental health challenges like climate change. This type of urban gardening is a powerful way to combat food insecurity and food apartheid.

Our class in the 24th street elementary school garden!

Many under-resourced communities are classified as food swamps (or food deserts) meaning there is an abundance of unhealthy food options like fast food and liquor stores with very few health options like farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Even when healthy options are available, they might be inaccessible to the community. For example, healthy food options in USC Village are expensive, which makes them unreasonable and effectively unavailable to many members of the surrounding community. Food swamps disproportionately impact communities of color and those with low socioeconomic status. Racist practices like redlining have led to lasting housing segregation in the U.S. and have facilitated drastic racial inequities in access to healthy food options, which has massive implications on health. In discussing the food injustices, Karen Washington says, “the food system is not broken; it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to: as a caste system based on demographics, economics, and race,” meaning that the creation of food swamps has been the result of these purposeful racist systems in place.

One of the ways that’s been proposed to fight food apartheid is urban gardening because it provides healthy food options and also strengthens the community, socially and economically, while benefiting the overall environment and creating a space for safe physical activity. Washington talks about finding solutions that empower the communities and take advantage of their strengths and social capital. Food banks and charity organizations don’t do anything to give power and influence to the local community. In communities that face injustices as a result of lack of power, finding ways to make changes by altering the power dynamics that exist can provide much longer lasting and effective changes. Community gardens and farmers markets that provide economic and social opportunities contribute to positive change in many different aspects of marginalized communities. Professor Portnoy discusses many other benefits of community gardens saying, “gardening is not only a therapeutic act for those suffering from mental and physical illness. A 2014 study on the benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing discusses benefits like promoting social inclusion for excluded groups such as immigrants” (Portnoy, 161). Gardens like the one at 24th street elementary school can provide financial opportunities (and economic independence), outdoor space, and social support, along with healthy, affordable food options.

However, Washington says that, “growing food isn’t enough: We need to address the structural, industrial, and environmental determinants that reinforce racism in our society.” Our food systems and food injustices are inseparable from the racism that permeates throughout our society, so the only way to fully remove food injustices requires the removal of racism from all of our systems and institutions- in schools, the healthcare system, housing, and everything else. 

Reflection

Taking this class has been such a fun and interesting way to explore Latinx culture in Los Angeles. I really enjoyed exploring how gentrification, globalization, cultural appropriation, and family all connect to different food-related issues. I especially loved being able to learn about issues in-person from people with direct experience, like being able to talk to Merced Sanchez about her experience as a street vendor. She talked a lot about the power of community and the struggles of gathering people who are scared of legal issues due to immigration status and/or the harsh criminalization of street vending. I also appreciated the importance of family in her food story; family and culture were an important part of food throughout the course- from my own family food culture in the first blog to Villa’s Taco’s entrepreneurship out of his grandma’s house. 

My favorite field trip was to Boyle Heights because we got to learn about gentrification and gentefication from people who actually own businesses in the neighborhood, while also eating incredible food! I loved talking to the owners of Café Café and learning more about the work that they do to help the community, like the fridge that anyone can take from and add to. It’s also been so much fun to support businesses that I now know a lot about and care about—I’ve been back many times with my friends to Café Café! Finally, my favorite topic of the semester was food injustices because it connects topics I’ve learned about in my major, Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, to Latinx culture in LA. It’s really powerful to learn simultaneously about the beauty of different food cultures and the diet limitations many face in the U.S. resulting from racist structures.

Sources

Portnoy, Sarah. «Urban Agriculture and Latino Roots in Los Angeles.» Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Washington, Karen. «How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System.» Civil Eats, 2020. https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/.

Último Blog

Por Max Moulton

It’s easy to think of countless examples of how systemic racism affects our country. While we have already discussed in class things such as redlining, racially based housing laws, and other racist practices written into our laws, the factors and repercussions outside the law are just as extreme. Things such as education, financial resources, and access to healthcare and healthy food do even more to limit the opportunities for low income communities of color. Beyond the scope of legal and socioeconomic factors also exists the social side of things such as in universities and corporate America. Because the system favors white men particularly, it is they who are often at the top of the ladder and making decisions, and these decisions often favor more white men to take their place. It is these same people who also have the most resources and connections to continue the cycle. The cycle is most definitely still going strong, as the statistics show: “de acuerdo a estadísticas de la Reserva Federal de EE.UU. publicadas en 2017, los hogares blancos son por lo menos 10 veces más ricos que los negros en términos de patrimonio neto” (Paredes). These striking statistics are almost entirely lined up with the opportunities that both these communities receive.

Unused space in L.A.

With all these factors combined, the access to healthy foods and presence of food deserts is certainly linked to the racism inherent in our system. People living in food deserts have higher rates of diabetes and obesity, mostly due to the high price or low access of healthy food in their area, not their predisposition to these diseases. Regardless of ethnicity, children in low income communities have more health problems and a lower life expectancy than those in high income communities; “given these striking health disparities, one can see why the argument has been made that diabetes is not necessarily the “genetic destiny” of Latino residents and that environmental factors play a major role” (Portnoy 119). The environmental factors extend beyond food access and into healthcare, but the vastly different diet of those with access to fresh food versus not is one of the most important factors in the rates of these diseases, which only continues the cycle of poverty as these diseases have huge economic consequences. 

Food Swamp at USC

To combat these two cycles of privilege and poverty, both must be dismantled in some way. While institutions such as universities and corporations are slowly improving the ability for people other than white men to be a part of them, there are still barriers in place that make it difficult. The top of the ladder is still dominated by the same demographic it always has, and in order for this to change, the system needs to. While grassroots organizations such as GSF are doing great work to change the access and knowledge of healthy food, they are only at two of the thousand LAUSD schools, so only a small fraction of the population is receiving this priceless education. If real change is to be made, the city needs to get involved and convert the thousands of acres of unused space it owns into gardens or green spaces for Angelinos to use. In Ron Finley’s ted talk, he estimates that the city owns 26 square miles of unused land, or as he puts it, “724,828,400 tomato plants.” There is no reason to have all this unused space at the same time there are hundreds of thousands of people (if not more) living with food insecurity.

Compost piles at GSF

Class this semester has been an absolute blast to be a part of. I have learned so much and met so many great people! From my classmates to guest speakers and entrepreneurs I have had the privilege of interacting with, I feel like I understand Los Angeles so much better than before the semester started. My favorite parts have been our first excursion to Olvera Street and Tirsa’s, where we learned about very literal whitewashing that I was previously unaware of, and got to have some amazing food after. Another highlight was this past week at GSF, I loved getting to work outside and learn about the garden as well as get a good workout in mulching with classmates. It was a perfect last trip in my mind as I felt like the whole class bonded and is at the point where we can have fun together even when doing something normally not exciting like weeding or mulching. It also gave me so much inspiration for the future as I could realistically see these resources at every school that could hopefully break the cycle of poor food habits and more in communities currently without these resources.

References:

Finley, R. (2013, February). A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA . TED conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerrilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en#t-618158

Paredes, Norberto. “Racismo: Cómo Surgió El Polémico Concepto de ‘Privilegio Blanco’ y Por Qué Despierta Tantas Pasiones – BBC News Mundo.” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 15 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-53169564.
Portnoy, Sarah. Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Los Jardines del Futuro

Por: Bridget Holle

He visto la luz después de nuestra visita al jardín de 24th Street Elementary. Más aún, hemos enfocado en muchas discusiones alrededor de la inseguridad alimentaria, específicamente en Los Ángeles. Vemos como los grupos minoritarios y de bajos recursos sufren desproporcionadamente de una variedad de cosas que a largo plazo perpetúa un ciclo violento.

Entonces, como he mencionado antes, soy bióloga. Yo puedo ver como los problemas diariamente y estresores afectarán a la salud de esa gente además de lo que sigue de una vida de bajos recursos. No puedo imaginar la presura que ellos continúan enfrentando. Por ejemplo, después de oír la historia de Marsella, no podía comprender su habilidad de preservar. Ella se enfrentó a tantos reveses. Pero nunca se dio por vencido. Ella entendía lo importante; su familia y no dejar de apoyarla. Entonces, nos hablaba sobre los estresores y riesgos que enfrenta diariamente. La realidad es que la vida es difícil para cada persona. Pero, de las lecturas entendemos muchas ventajas y va con la piel blanco, el privilegio blanco. Paredes nos da la metáfora como los privilegios que hacen la vida más ligera como, “la mochila sin peso que está llena de provisiones especiales, garantías, herramientas, pasaportes, visas, ropa, equipo de emergencia y hasta cheques en blanco” (Paredes). 

Como he explicado un poquito antes, hay muchos problemas que vienen con estrés crónico. Más aún guían al daño de las neuronas cerebrales, función inmunológica reducida, la presión arterial alta, y la obesidad para nombrar algunos (Mariotti). Entonces, es crucial que veamos que la gente de bajos recursos no solamente sufren de inseguridad alimentaria, sino también de salud empeorada. 

Como defensora de la seguridad alimentaria dentro mi participación en organizaciones como Project Angel Food con USC American Red Cross, y con la organización de USC KDSAP, lo que entiendo es que la dieta, lo que comemos es unas de las cosas más importantes en resultados de salud. Y después de la visita de esta semana y mi propia investigación, entiendo como fuerte y poderoso es ese sector alimentario. Por ejemplo, en el programa de USC KDSAP, generamos conocimiento de cómo nutrir a nuestros cuerpos, a nuestros riñones para protegerlos. ¿Cuáles son los consejos más importantes?  Evitar los azúcares añadidos, productos procesados y congelados porque contienen mucho sodio y minerales que dañan a los riñones y guían a la hipertensión, la diabetes y la obesidad. Pero ese sector no solamente afecta directamente nuestros cuerpos, la sociedad y las instancias de enfermedades, sino también al medio ambiente. 

Para concluir, este curso ha conectado TANTAS de mis intereses y opiniones de cómo enfrentar la salud pública. Por lo tanto, estoy muy agradecida por tener la oportunidad de visitar el jardín. Imagino el futuro: jardines comunes e integrados en sistemas grandes como escuelas públicas, universidades, iglesias, las sororidades y fraternidades, etc. Porque esos sistemas tienen el poder de hacer tanto cambio. De enfrentar las inseguridades alimentarias, el desperdicio alimentario y daños al medio ambiente. Si enfrentamos al desperdicio alimentario por integrar prácticas como el abono orgánico, restringimos el exceso de comunidad, y guiamos a productos naturales, cambiaremos nuestros resultados de salud en la comunidad. Más aún como dijo Jonathan Bloom, si enfrentamos la desperdicia alimentaria en las maneras como he mencionado, es equivalente a 25% menos coches. Finalmente, se ilumina por Michael Focault a recurrir a jardines como respuestas en la comunidad: “the garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world” (Portnoy). Para resumir, he encontrado ese jardín como una fuente de nostalgia, comunidad, fortalecimiento, oportunidad, cambio y bienestar. 

Fuentes:

Bloom, Jonathan. “A Look at How America Squanders Nearly Half of Its Food.” Wasted Food – Jonathan Bloom on Food Waste and How It Can Be Avoided, 5 Apr. 2021, http://www.wastedfood.com/. Mariotti, Agnese. “The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication.” Future science OA vol. 1,3 FSO23. 1 Nov. 2015, doi:10.4155/fso.15.21Paredes, Norberto. “Racismo: Cómo Surgió El Polémico Concepto De ‘Privilegio Blanco’ Y Por Qué Despierta Tantas Pasiones.” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 25 June 2020, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-53169564. Portnoy, Sarah J. Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles / Sarah Portnoy. Rowman  Littlefield, 2017.

The Food System: Combatting a Structural Issue

Por Claire Katnik

There are many problems with our food system. Marginalized communities are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to food access and growing. These groups are often located in food deserts, where there are no grocery stores in their area; or there are no healthy food options, making the only choice fast food restaurants or liquor stores (Finley 2013). These communities are facing these problems due to structural racism. In order to move forward and get justice for these communities, we cannot just say that people should be growing their own food and everything will be better. Firstly, we have to realize that many people do not have the time to take care of a garden or do not have the space to even have one. As Karen Washington said in a Civil Eats article, “we need to address the structural, industrial, and environmental determinants that reinforce racism in our society” (Washington 2020). We cannot solve this issue without looking at the main issue that is causing it. 

Structural racism is in every structure we have in this country. It is affecting people’s lives every single day. Structural racism is not just huge, blatant acts of racism, it is also things that go unnoticed to most people who are not being affected. This issue is so ingrained in our society and politics that it will take a long time to fix and mend the wrongs that have been done. Especially in the case of food, communities of color have been struggling for so long now and our government just watches it happen in so many cases. We need to start educating ourselves and people on how the food system needs to be reformed.

One way we can help this problem is by legislation. Politicians in our local communities should be the ones creating legislation in order to combat this structural food issue. Implementing community gardens is one great way to start. As Sarah Portnoy states in her book, Food, Health and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, community gardens are “… improving nutrition, increasing food security and physical activity, improving mental health, and creating stronger community relationships” (Portnoy). These impacts are very powerful for communities. A few simple changes will have a lasting effect, but we have to start somewhere and it has to happen soon. Local governments should be putting in more grocery stores in food deserts, as well as community gardens. 

24th Street Elementary School Garden

As we saw when we went to 24th Street Elementary (although it is closed right now), community gardens can make a huge impact on the community. Even for the elementary school children, having a place outside that can also be used as a “classroom” is freeing and also educating. Although having this garden is a lot of maintenance; the garden teachers showed us how much of a positive effect that this garden has on the children. Not only are the young children learning about healthy foods, responsibility, the environment, and how to garden, so are their parents. The teachers said that when the kids are taught recipes, they share them with their parents and then will remake it at home. This is such a positive cycle that should be implemented in all schools in Los Angeles. Overall, we can see the benefits of having a garden, but greater change will have to be made in order to fight back against structural racism.

Works Cited

24th Street Elementary: Community Garden Day. Garden School Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from https://gardenschoolfoundation.org/events-list/24th-street-elementary-community-garden-day

Portnoy, S. (2017). Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles Ch.7, “Urban Agriculture”.

Washington, K. (2020, July 16). Op-ed: How urban agriculture can fight racism in the food system. Civil Eats. https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/

La Lucha por La Comida

por Khamilah Muhammad

What is so incredibly surprising to me about racial inequality within the food system are the “benefits” given to those in need. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) grants individuals a grand total of $200 a month per person. To those who don’t steadily rely on government assistance to acquire food, $200 a month could seem great! It’s $200 less a person has to pay out of pocket to go grocery shopping with. But to me, the true horror is the reality in which we live, where $200 does not go very far in grocery stores today. Even more so for individuals who live in food deserts. The quick access to fresh foods proves to be another monster of its own, once you calculate the cost of transportation needed to get to a fresh foods supermarket. Ron Finley mentioned in his Ted Talk, it would take “45 minutes round trip to get an apple that wasn’t impregnated by pesticides.” This is the horrifying reality of individuals that live under a 5 mile radius of our neatly polished USC Village Community.   

24th Street Elementary Garden

   Beyond the 2.5 miles radius DPS patrols, the South Los Angeles community is one of the largest food deserts in the nation. Ron Finley mentioned that the City of Los Angeles owns 26 sq miles of vacant land within this community alone. South Los Angeles is riddled with just about everything but fresh food markets. The LA Times also reported that, “En Estados Unidos, el 80 por ciento de la población vive en áreas urbanas y millones no tienen acceso a los alimentos nutritivos como son las verduras y frutas.” There is an exuberant amount of liquor and fast food stores in comparison to markets. And one can find a reliable market, prices are not that affordable, especially on a $200 per person budget for the month. Just as a side note, my family of 3 spends well over the government allotted amount on a month on groceries. It quite frankly is unsustainable for the average person living in the confines of a food desert. 

    “The food system is not broken; it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to: as a caste system based on demographics, economics, and race.” (Karen Washington) This unfortunately is the terrifying reality many in food deserts have had to face. Knowing that people in cities such as Beverly Hills, which is under 8 miles from South Los Angeles, live an extremely different lifestyle as far as food acquisition goes. They also have to come to terms with the notion that the government, though providing some relief by means of SNAP benefits, does little else to help foster any other sustainable means of accessing fresh foods for members of food deserts. To me, this is truly where communities show their strength and resilience. By disregarding the government’s disregard for their food security, they come together and form community gardens or programs where fresh foods are made equally and conveniently available. Community programs such as L.A. Green Grounds and 24th Street Community Garden are prime examples of showing this resilience and strength. They not only feed a community, but also bring people together. They serve as a means to teach young children the importance and power that lies within growing one’s own food. It employs self sufficiency and independence, skills that can never be stripped from a person. Ron Finely says it best, “growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Before this, this was something that I never really had to ponder. To me having a small garden in my backyard meant having access to various herbs and vegetables on hand. That I didn’t have to make the 2 minute journey to my local grocery store to procure whatever crop I needed. It showed me the other side of the coin, the side in which food acquisition is truly based on demographics, economics and race. I think, personally, this blog in particular truly shifted my worldview in the context of what is going on just a few miles away from me and in our USC community. What we can do to change and petition our government to allow these individuals access to these vacant lots to better serve their communities.

Us at 24th St Community Garden
  1. https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerrilla_gardener_in_south_central_la?language=en
  2. https://civileats.com/2020/07/10/op-ed-how-urban-agriculture-can-fight-racism-in-the-food-system/
  3. La agricultura urbana un brote de esperanza entre cinturones de asfalto – Los Angeles Times

Los Jardines y La Esperanza

Parte 1:

Si yo fuera residente de South L.A. en realidad no estoy seguro cuantas veces irían al supermercado. Tomaría mucho tiempo y después de un día de trabajo podía verme fácilmente a mí mismo yendo a buscar comida rápida. Afortunadamente, eso no es la realidad para mi comunidad. Tenemos tres supermercados a un millar de mi casa y eso es parte de las estructuras que las mantienen oprimidos las que viven en un vecindario de bajos recursos. Puedo ver en el ejemplo de USC donde el “village” tiene solo Trader Joes y Target donde los precios son tan caros. Siente que el único mercado al menos de esas opciones es Ralphs. 

Entrada al Jardín

En mi opinión, la realidad es que no van a tener muchas personas de vecindarios pobres yendo a supermercados si las ponen en esos vecindarios porque nadie de esos vecindarios puede pagar los precios para los supermercados y debido a esto es un cíclico. Los padres no pueden pagar los precios entonces sus niños no comen muchas verduras y frutas o saben mucho sobre una dieta saludable. Pienso que el propósito del Ted Talk de Ron Finley es posiblemente la única manera de invertir los efectos de muchos años de desiertos alimentarios. Para ser honesto, yo era mucho menos optimista de la situación antes de oír su lectura porque no había pensado en el número de lotes abiertos en Los Ángeles. Es loco saber que la ciudad es dueño de 26 millas cuadradas de lotes abiertos (Finley, 2013). Siempre había visto los lotes cuando estaba en secundaria pero nunca había pensado en el potencial que tenían. 

El Jardín

En mi secundaria, trataba de encontrar maneras de hacer que mi escuela fuera más sostenible y enfocaba en el reciclaje. La realidad es que mis esfuerzos fueron en vano porque la ciudad usa “reciclaje mixto” donde todos los contaminantes se mezclan con las cosas que podemos reusar. Esto esencialmente elimina el potencial de hacer pulpo con papel y ahora que China y el sudeste asiático no aceptan nuestro plástico, no queda mucho que los ciudadanos tengan mucho para hacer o ayudar con el reciclaje. Me di cuenta de que fallé la oportunidad de ayudar en una manera real con un jardín comunitario o posiblemente el compost (nuestro deán me dijo que no era una posibilidad el compost en mi escuela desafortunadamente).

Me encanta ver esos artículos e ir al jardín de 24th street porque me da esperanza. Había el potencial de no solo prevenir desperdicio, sino también de ayudar a la comunidad. Las subvenciones y las organizaciones benéficas son buenas cosas como dijo el Op Ed pero son nada más que curitas para un herida abierta que debe ser arreglado por la propia comunidad (Washington, 2020). Me di cuenta de que también debido a mi escuela, aunque no vivía en un área con mucha naturaleza, yo tenía la oportunidad y el privilegio de visitar la naturaleza. Olvide la importancia de tener acceso a la naturaleza que habla sobre Yisrael y Paulina Ortiz. Me gustó lo que ella dijo sobre los jardines. “‘Son lugares de curación y sanación, porque la gente cultiva yerbas medicinales de sus países’, continúa la profesora. ‘Pero también hay sanación mental, yo diría espiritual’, precisa” (La Opinión). El tiempo de reflejar en la naturaleza es inestimable porque es un lugar privado donde solo hay tú, la tierra, y los sonidos de la naturaleza. 

Nosotros moviendo el mantillo

Pienso que es una muy buena idea los jardines y solo puede ser parado por los precios de agua y tierra y los políticos. Con la red y las noticias, posiblemente puede tener éxito si bastante gente apoya. Lo que es seguro es que tiene un impacto profundo para la gente que tiene acceso dentro de estos programas y me da mucho esperanza para el futuro.

Ayudando en el jardín

Parte II:

Tengo muchos momentos favoritos de esta clase. Me gustan todos los temas de la clase como la autenticidad donde oímos de Abarca en clase y los vendedores ambulantes donde encontramos y aprendemos de un vendedor ambulante. Las dos eran oradoras muy buenas y me hacían pensar mucho sobre mi experiencia en la comida. Particularmente, las palabras de Abarca se quedaron conmigo por mucho tiempo. Mis excursiones de clase favoritas eran en el jardín para este blog donde me sentí conectado de nuevo con mis experiencias en una granja y también cuando visitamos a Mariscos Jalisco (mi primera vez disfrutando un taco de mariscos) y el mercado de boyle heights. Mi momento favorito de mi experiencia con otros estudiantes fue mi proyecto de Argentina donde fuimos a Lala’s Grill juntos y asar con ellas. Tenía que aprender sobre la historia de la “guerra de dulce de leche” y sobre cómo arreglar chimichurri. Mi favorita experiencia de la clase sola fue mi visita a villa tacos. Me gusta primero aprender sobre el dueño de Villa Tacos y después ver el producto de su lucha para que funcionara su puesto. He descubierto un lugar al que voy a regresar muchas veces que ya he vuelto a visitar con mis compañeros un par de veces. Pronto llevaré a mi familia allí también. En total, todas las excursiones me hacían sentir muy alegre porque estaba con estudiantes aprendiendo sobre problemas importantes para mí en maneras prácticas.

La clase!