Columbia hosts 'food justice' conference

Food justice and racial equity were presented as intersecting themes at an academic conference this week.

The conference, entitled “Teaching about Food Systems: Creating a Community of Practice,” occurred at the Columbia University Medical Center on Tuesday and Wednesday. Specialties of the professors delivering the talks include food studies, integrated science and technology, and agricultural sustainability and society.

“Each small group explores a quote from Molly Anderson on food as a right or from Julie Guthman on working toward equity in the alternative food movement” during “Food System Sustainability Through a Food Rights and Equity Lens,” a session on the second day of the event. “One ‘expert’ stays at each group while others rotate to to add depth to the discussions on each quote. The session ends with a large group sharing on how we can deepen our focus on food rights and food equity as we teach about food system sustainability.”

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Another event, entitled “Integrating Racial Equity and Food Justice into our Personal Lives, our Professional Lives, and Learning Environments,” is hosted by Joanne Burke, PhD, RD, LD, from the University of New Hampshire, and Karen Spiller, who studied public health at Boston University.

“Participants will explore strategies to develop and expand their personal and professional capacity to more authentically, systematically and structurally address issues of racial equity and food justice,” reads the session’s description.

Those who complete the racial equity and food justice program will be able to understand why these concepts and implicit bias are important to food system training, spot “subtle as well as overt” instances of white privilege, implicit bias, and food injustices, and recognize resources like “Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial equity challenge.”

This challenge, which strives to “create dedicated time and space to build more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of power, privilege, and leadership.”

The advertisement for the conference depicts three systems--biological, economic, and social--intersecting in a larger circle with the labels for farming, social, environmental, and economic on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of the diagram.

Footage from the event can be viewed here, though an intellectual property claim has been made against the video, which has removed the sound.

Campus Reform contacted both Dr. Burke and Sharon Akabas, PhD, but comment was not received in time for publication.

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