Monday, May 9, 2016

A Student's Journey With Food

My Spring Food Journey by Johan Arango

EMR 110: The EMR of Food:
How Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights Are Parts of the Food We Eat

If you feel like having pizza for dinner, you can either use an app on your cellphone or make a call to get it delivered. It’s very easy and there’s really no need to think too much about all the activities that take place to get that piece of pizza to your door on time, with the right ingredients, and safe to be consumed.

We have a food system that excels at being convenient.

That convenience may make that system into an invisible web that we increasingly grow unaware of and could easily completely ignore.

Food systems can be very hard to understand ,especially when you start asking yourself what really happens from seed to fork. Whether is health interests, religious beliefs, economic prospects, human rights concerns, or any other reason, some of us start navigating this complex journey.

This journey may start by reading a book in the summer, followed by a series of documentaries in the fall. Through the winter, you follow the posts that your foodie friend has been publishing on Facebook, and when it’s finally spring, you go on Pinterest to get ideas to start your garden. At this point, in an already advanced level of Food Inc. inspired paranoia, you have decided that a garden is the only way you can have total control of the food you consume.

As a result of this personal search for answers, this spring I was led to the EMR of Food classroom. EMR stands for Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights. And as the name of the class states, it goes into a search on how ethnicity, migration, and rights are parts of the food we eat. I found out about this class through the Food Literacy Project at Harvard, and as you can imagine from what EMR stands for, we embarked on an extensive and exciting journey.  

First, we discussed local and global food politics. We read about the power of local initiatives to bring access to healthier foods to marginalized communities. We also read about the struggle of African American farmers in the United States, and how difficult is to have a financially sustainable farm in this country. In one of our books, we had a chance to go over general aspect of food politics, and we discussed the current need for a national food policy.

We dedicated one week to bananas and their complex reality. We love them and eat a lot of them, however, there’s a sad history behind those bananas that persist up to this date. After a week of going through the bittersweet history of bananas, we took a trip to Taza Chocolate.

Sidenote: Our trip to Taza was delicious! You should go!

After four weeks, the class was always highly involved with our discussions, the readings, and the everyone of us had a valuable insight that created an amazing academic experience.

This enthusiasm was always steady and every week everyone was eager to be part of the discussion. As a matter of fact, we always ran out of time. It felt like we couldn’t get everything off our chests and had to stop right at the peak of our discussion. Therefore, we had to share our thoughts and stories with our classmates on our online group.

In our following weeks, we explored the systematic structure behind agribusiness and immigration to subsequently go over food culture and food choices.  I don’t want to go over all the content in this article, especially because I want to highly encourage you to be part of this class.

As you can see, we had a broad coverage of topics in agriculture and food production that are strongly related to sustainability.  

We often think of sustainability when we reduce the use of energy and water in our buildings. Other people may think of solar panels. Some may quickly think of fuel and cars.

Yes, those things are part of sustainability but it doesn’t stop there.

Workers’ rights and human rights are part of sustainability.

Transparency is part of sustainability.

Food trade policies have a strong impact on achieving sustainability.

Providing healthy foods to our kids in schools, that’s sustainability!
By the way, did you know that pizza is considered a vegetable in school lunch plans because it has tomato sauce?

Have you ever wonder where to get a food product that is affordable, healthy, that doesn’t harm the environment, that is fair to the farmers and everyone involved in the production chain?

That in my mind is the definition of a sustainable product.
Whether is edible or not.

Perhaps, it’s really hard to find it right now.

Perhaps, a lot of people are opposed to it because is not easy to achieve or because it goes against their economic interests.

Change is difficult but this is our job and commitment as students and future professionals in the field of Sustainability.

We wouldn’t be part of this program if we didn’t believe change is possible.
For those students or members of our Harvard community who are interested in food systems, I encourage you to join this joyful stimulating academic adventure with Dr. Tessa Lowinske Desmond.  

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