My name is Frieda and I’m a history major at Loyola University Chicago. This is my senior year. This blog will trace my path through the 2016-2017 Ramonat Seminar. Much of what I know about Dorothy Day and social justice in general comes from just observing efforts around campus rather than any sort of focused study. As of right now, I’m in the category of people who know of social justice but don’t necessarily know about it. This year, of course, should fix that, with lots of chances to interact with the topic.
I applied for this seminar while finishing up another year-long research project which featured cross-cultural comparisons of Italian and Chinese pediatricians. I’m looking forward to getting to explore my own country through the same kind of questioning, research-driven experience.
Food feels like an ever-evolving piece of the Chicago life. When I moved here from Oklahoma, people mentioned two things about Chicago food. The first was how much high-quality and diverse food I would be able to find. The second was remarking about food deserts. Upon arrival, I also encountered the push on-campus and off towards urban farming and replanting native species.
When searching for an example of food-related Chicago social justice efforts I came across the KAM Isaiah Israel Social Justice Committee. This group from a synagogue in Hyde Park maintains several urban gardens, which produce food that they donate to local food programs. As of 2015, they had grown and given away over 9 tons of food. Another part of their food social justice initiative is an annual conference held on Martin Luther King Day weekend, which focuses on educating people about food access and sustainability.
I selected this group because they seemed to tie in well with several of the things that Dorothy Day pushed for in her autobiography as well as approaches promoted by social justice initiatives in general. A return to the land. An interaction with poverty rather than just throwing money at charity. A push to change systems that further inequality. An engagement of religious individuals with the real world not just the next one.
I chose to narrow down my search to food-related social justice initiatives for a few reasons. Food is both intensely private and thoroughly public. Each of us have our own preferences, hang-ups, and ideas about what food ideally should be. At the same time, though, food is really part of a bigger social framework. For those of us who are not completely self-sufficient, we generally rely on others to produce food. Food plays a big part in social gatherings and identity (like that smug feeling you get when you buy something in part because of its attributes of being organic/humanely raised/hfcs-free/not genetically modified, all of which tie into things that on some level are individually valued and on another are socially valued). We theme it for celebrations and control it for religious fasting. We hear about hunger and exhortations from religious figures to feed the hungry. We look to it for entertainment, whether from the Food Network, Pinterest, or Instagram.
Food social justice is also alive and well in Chicago, with the rise of urban gardening and the push for locally-grown foods. There is a push for food being available to all that is not only abundant but also healthful and the KAM group is a part of this.