Virginia Tech workshop addresses racial inequities in food systems head-on

Two groups come together to show how to dismantle inequities related in race

A Virginia Tech workshop is putting the spotlight on racial inequities in our food systems, from who is growing your food to how to access it.

The Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation and R.E.A.L. (Racial Equity in Agriculture Lab) are hosting “Building Racial Equity in the Food System: From Individual Anti-Racism to Dismantling Institutional Systems” Wednesday, March 31.

There is already a waitlist to attend the event and be a part of the conversation.

It’s a two-part training, the first part will focus on defining racism and how it shows up in food systems and the second half is all about the role people play in knocking those racial inequities down.

Duron Chavis of R.E.A.L. said before addressing what’s going on in food industries, everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to what racism is and how its impact can be linked to other national issues. Chavis said it was exposed in 2020 during the pandemic and is now coming to a head in 2021 as we come out of the pandemic.

“Our discourse around racism usually lives in an individual act, somebody called you an explicative or someone was denied a job, but when we start to pull back the layer and understand that there are systems that we live within that are grounded in racist policies and discriminative policies that are producing poor public health outcomes,” Chavis said.

An example Chavis likes to use is the million dollars distributed during the pandemic to farmers in the U.S.

“How can we as a society say that we have an equitable food system when these black farmers were recipients of less than 1% of the money to support them during this time of crisis,” said Chavis.

He and the other two speakers of R.E.A.L., Shantell Bingham and Michael Carter Jr., feel it is important for people to recognize their role in deconstructing inequities related to food. They don’t want people to leave the program feeling hopeless and not equipped to break down what’s wrong in the system.

It’s the same reason Dr. Kim Niewolny is excited for them to speak.

Niewolny is the associate professor of Virginia Tech’s Department of Agriculture Leadership and Community Education as well as the director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation.

She said that since the center launched in Fall 2019 the goal has been to be a space for students, faculty, staff and community members to come together and have deeper conversations.

The workshop is building from the Racial Justice in the Food System series the center hosted in summer 2020.

Niewolny wants people to attend with eyes and hearts open and to know there will be hard work ahead.

The Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation is offering the following 2-part workshop on...

Posted by LEAP for Local Food on Tuesday, March 16, 2021

“So there’s education based on awareness but to this workshop, it’s also to dive in deeper into developing opportunities for individuals to make a plan. make an action for themselves, within their own groups their units,” said Niewolny.

The workshop starts at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Despite the waitlist, Niewolny said it is important to still register to get valuable information on the topic. To register, click here.

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