Project Leader Attends National Conference on Food Justice and Food Recovery

On November 3, 2017, Project Leader Courtney Hogan of the “Food Fighters: Student-Powered Hunger Relief” team attended the second annual Food Recovery Dialogue in Washington, D.C.  This conference brought together the 230 chapters of student-led, food recovery programs from all over the country. The network serves as a coalition of student groups who collect prepared, unserved food from dining halls and food stores on and off campus to be donated to community organizations whose clients are in need of, but do not have access to, daily nutritious meals.

The Food Recovery Dialogue was an excellent networking opportunity to connect with other students fighting food waste and hunger at their universities, as well as an experience to learn about various food justice initiatives advancing the movement all over the country.

Featured speakers included conference host Dr. Sabine O’Hara, the Dean of the University of District of Columbia (UDC) College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES). UDC is a land-grant school focused on initiatives improving urban sustainability and agriculture opportunities — the only one of its kind in the country.

Speaker at Conference
Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the University of District of Columbia College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences

Also speaking was Jessica Felix-Romero of the Farmworker Justice organization. She discussed the intersectionality of food and social injustices, from using aspects of permaculture for community building to the rights of farm workers and the social implications of food waste.

Speaker at conference
Jessica Felix-Romero from the Farmworker Justice organization

Hogan’s favorite presentation came from Tony Hillery, founder and executive director of Harlem Grown. His passion to help young students experiencing the negative effects of intergenerational poverty was the spark for Harlem Grown. He volunteered at an elementary school’s cafeteria and soon began a recycling program which inspired the students to get involved.

After obtaining an unused community garden across the street, Tony spent every morning gardening with the children, which included a composting program – all completely sustained by the young students. Several years later, that small garden has expanded to grow over 3,000 pounds of food and serve over 4,000 students per year! Harlem Grown hires single-mothers to manage the several greenhouses and also has an internship program for young adults without high school degrees to eventually be hired to manage one of the few dozen gardens all over New York City.

After the presentations from the various speakers, the conference broke out into discussion sessions featuring different themes. Most helpful was a dialogue between chapters about challenges each group faces, ranging from lack of volunteers to community partner collaborations. This was particularly useful because Hogan gained a lot of insight, particularly on how to sustain and expand the Food Fighters program. Afterwards students were invited to tour the rooftop garden at UDC, currently growing a variety a vegetables and collecting rainwater.

Rooftop Garden Tour
The group toured a rooftop garden at the University of District of Columbia

Overall, this trip was an incredibly enriching experience to forge connections between student leaders of the national food justice movement and expand our perspectives and capacities for growth with our own local projects.

To learn more about getting involved with the Food Fighters, visit the Facebook group or contact Project Leader Courtney Hogan.

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