On May 30th, 2023, our Urban Food Equity (UFE) team, including Nghi Dang, Elle Mari, and Lakisha McZeal, organized and led, “Inspiring Conversations on Community Food Justice”. This event brought together nearly 50 diverse individuals excited to connect on the integral role food plays in cultural preservation, reclamation, and a community’s self-determination to live well and be nourished on their own terms. We hosted the event at one of our partner sites, the Sherman Heights Community Center.
The evening began with a screening of “Fighting for Food Justice: San Diego Community Heroes,” a short film we produced in 2022 that features our capacity building work to improve access to healthy food with our local food system partners. After the film, we facilitated a community conversation on food justice and invited attendees to share their reflections and contributions from their own work. We heard perspectives from local community-based food leaders including Regina Gamboa from the Magnolia Project, Daniela Kelly and Francisco Soto from the Sherman Heights Community Center, Rachel Oporto from San Diego Food System Alliance, Kim Frink and Shannon Ratliff from SunCoast Market Co-Op, Daria Van Nice from Second Chance Youth Garden, and Cindy Steele from Grandma LuLu’s Table.
Next, we turned the program agenda over to our community partner, Mario Ceballos of the POC Fungi Community, to show their thought-provoking film,“Flor de Maiz“, which celebrates and reclaims huitlacoche as a significant cultural Indigenous food. After the screening, Mario led a cooking demonstration making a squash soup topped with huitlacoche and pomegranate seeds for everyone to try. If you haven’t tasted huitalacoche yet, our audience described it as earthy, subtle, and ancestral. Indigenous young leaders from the Kumeyaay Nation and Dr. Angélica Yañez, professor of Ethnic Studies at Palomar College, greatly contributed to POC Fungi Community’s conversation on reclaiming Indigenous foods and the joy in connecting with a “taste memory”, as described in “Flor de Maiz”.
Our event was catered by Chef Aureny Aranda of Au Gourmet, a trained Kitchenista from the Olivewood Gardens Cooking for Salud Program. Aureny prepares food in the licensed commercial kitchen space available at Sherman Heights Community Center. Flowers were provided by Inceui Flowers, a collective of women of color farmers, florists, and herbalists in San Diego County.
We look forward to hosting more conversations on community food justice and holding space for our partners and newcomers to meet, engage, and collaborate.