DIG IN: Cultivating Inclusive Approaches to Food Justice

March 05, 2018

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Dig In attendees enjoying lunch catered by local vendors
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Dig In regestration
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Posters displayed at Dig In
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One of the Presentations at Dig In

On March 2, 2018, over 500 people, mostly UCSC undergraduates, attended the “DIG IN: Cultivating Inclusive Approaches to Food Justice” Conference, which was organized by Colleges Nine and Ten, especially our Co-Curricular Programs Office. The DIG In Conference accomplished the following goals: (1) it addressed how environmental issues are fundamentally imbricated with issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and class, justice and power; (2) it centered voices and understandings about food systems that are often marginalized; (3) it pushed back against deficit-based framing of the food experiences and cultures of minoritized groups; and (4) it recognized and honored the expertise and knowledge held by people of color, indigenous people, community leaders, youth, and women.

This conference reflects the connections being forged between UCSC and Watsonville, recognizing the latter’s long history of struggle for social and economic justice in the past 150 years. We were honored to be able to feature the stories and foods of a burgeoning group of food entrepreneurs working with El Pajaro Community Development Corporation, whose culinary works reflect rich cultural traditions and heritages. Across the UCSC campus, Colleges Nine and Ten are working in close collaboration with the four Ethnic Resource Centers, the Sustainability Office, and the People of Color Sustainability Collective. As the only colleges affiliated with the Division of Social Sciences, we have forged strong partnerships with the Blum Center on Poverty, Social Enterprise, and Participatory Governance, and the Everett Program which promotes digital tools for social innovation in the development and organization of DIG IN.

DIG IN featured keynote speeches and performances by Lyla June, Diné activist, musician and poet; Maria Elena de La Garza, Executive Director of Watsonville’s Community Action Board and 2018 Tony Hill Award winner; Julisa Lopez, UCSC senior and member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band; and Dr. Breeze Harper, critical race feminist scholar and founder of the Sistah Vegan Project. Panel presentations explored food and identity formation and empowering entrepreneurship and economic justice around food. Food justice related research by students from UCSC, San Jose State, and Watsonville High School were featured in a poster session, and a multiplicity of booths and stations fostered learning and creativity, from a virtual reality exploration of animal rights in industrial food production to vermicomposting to sharing “my food story.” Five action-based workshops led by students, community leaders and scholars engaged diverse issues: food as a right and UCSC student food insecurity; integrating racial equity and inclusion with ethical veganism; people of color and garden spaces at UCSC; community based agroecology and urban gardens; and becoming an ally to the revitalization of Indigenous food systems.

The DIG IN conference was funded in large part through a US Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Food and Agriculture, Hispanic Serving Institution Education Grant awarded in 2016 to Colleges Nine at Ten. Entitled “Diversifying Food Studies and Fostering Community Food Security,” this grant to Co-Principal Investigators Flora Lu (Provost of Colleges Nine and Ten) and ENVS Professor Stacy Philpott develops innovative curricula, experiential learning opportunities, and campus/community collaborations that address issues of food security and justice.