Portland State Multicultural Student Center hosted a food and environmental justice discussion focusing on the global agroecological movement relating to local and international issues and struggles. Agroecology is a form of sustainable agriculture that offers an alternative to the current unsustainable industrial agricultural model. Around 20–30 people attended the event co-organized by the PSU Environmental Club and the Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo on May 6.
ATC is a global organization that works locally and internationally to fight for the rights of rural workers and people.
Through collaboration with the PSU Environmental Club, PSU became one of the stops for ATC’s 2016 Peasant Agroecology for Food Sovereignty and Mother Earth West Coast speaking tour.
“There are many folks working on the issues of sovereignty and justice at all levels of work.. [the purpose of the event is] to give some space for the local native groups to share ideas and thoughts that are not often shared to the public,” said Erika Takeo who helped organize the event.
The informal discussion was led by four guest panelists: Marie Knight, D’Ana Soto, Miguel Robles and Nils McCune. Soto is a traditional Native American farmer, similar to Robles who is a farmer originally from Mexico City. McCune is a researcher of agroecology, and Knight is a member of the Warm Springs tribe in Oregon and a natural helper with the Future Generations Collaborative.
McCune suggested the model of agroecology as a solution to the issue of accessibility to food and environmental justice.
Other participants of the discussion included members of the Environmental Club, students from other academic institutions, Ph.D. students in urban studies, members of the local community and food activists.
Each panelist introduced individual aspects of the food and environmental justice issue. Some overarching points of the discussion included agroecology, traditional food production, consumption practices, the historical impact of colonization on the food practices of the indigenous people and problems of global capitalism.
Food has become a commodity as a product of global capitalism. The panelists discussed how the present view of food violates people’s rights to accessibility of food and land that can be used to grow food.
Before colonization indigenous Americans had a long-standing relationship with the land and an established diet.
“Traditionally, my people did not eat grains or dairy. When we were put into reservations the [U.S.] government provided us with food that we didn’t even need or know how to eat instead of what we [were] in need [of],” Knight said. “Students should really research about the foods that they eat—how they are grown and taken care of. This includes animals too.”
Food insecurity is not a distant topic or problem PSU students face.
The Vanguard interviewed the PSU Food Pantry—an organization that provides access to food for students—about local issues of food injustice.
“Food insecurity is a big issue. Students are trying to pay for school and trying to survive at the same time. For some students, the PSU Food Pantry is the only source of food,” said Michelle Chan an intern at the Food Pantry and sophomore majoring in biology.
Just as coffee or processed flour was not the desired choice for indigenous Native Americans, it is not processed food that students desire. In fact, fresh produce is the most requested item at the Food Pantry.
For more information about the ATC tour, go to friendsatc.org/tour.