Decolonize Your Dinner Plate shows students the power of food

The Otter Student Union of California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) broadcasted an informative presentation about food security over Zoom. Nutritionist Sara Housman led the presentation and discussed how our food gets allocated to us, while explaining why there are problems within that process.

At the beginning of the presentation, Housman asked all of the attendees to describe what their comfort food was and why. Many different foods were mentioned, from Mexican sopes and spicy udon noodles to British chocolates. This was a great conversation starter that led attendees to understand how important food is to them and why it’s also important to understand the system in which those foods come from.

“For each individual culture and your family and friends, food is such a personal thing,” Housman said. Because food is such an intimate value that many of us have, Housman reminded her audience that what is on your plate symbolizes much more than having a sustainable meal.

“One of the things I think about with [food security] is putting the food back to the people,” Housman said. “When we talk about addressing food insecurity, one of the things we talk about is sovereignty. We want you to have access to the foods you want to eat and make sure it is culturally appropriate.”

While the value of receiving desired foods in grocery stores is high, Housman expressed that America’s food system does not always fulfill that value. This is a phenomenon that happens right in CSUMB’s backyard.

“When we think about Monterey County and Salinas, we are the Salad Bowl of the World,” Housman said. “Here we are, with a massive amount of a food supply, but the people that work within that food system are unable to afford the healthiest food available.”

This has a lot to do with the financial aspects of the food system. Housman said “when we talk about the food system itself, it’s a pretty simple model,” which involves “food production, getting [food] out to the people, processing the food, marketing the food and the distribution process, which is based on money and what the demand is.”

A great example of how the supply and demand system works within agriculture is seen through America’s current shortage of restaurant customers due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Right now, many restaurants are closed and there’s this large group of food premarked to go towards restaurants that no longer has a place to go to,” Housman said. “In a simple easy system, we could easily divert the food to a different system like the food banks. But there’s a lot of restrictions and financial ties in the business. This is a very difficult system to turn and move.”

She explained this is one of the many cases of how the U.S. “wastes a massive amount of food in our food system.” Housman expressed that because we, the consumers, play a big part in the food system, we should “start questioning some of the system and whether or not this is working for all of the people within it.”

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