Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Food Systems Working Group Co-Chair Story: Crystal Owings

Hello, my name is Crystal Owings and I’m the Sustainability Intern for UCSC Dining and one of the current co-chairs for the Food Systems Working Group. I am a third year majoring in Environmental Studies and Latin American Latino Studies and I absolutely love food and baseball. If anyone would of told me senior year of high school that I would be involved in a student organization that focused on food system issues, I wouldn’t believe it at all.

For one, both of my parents met working at McDonalds therefore I was definitely a Mickey Dees baby, a cheeseburger princess. My kindergarten classmates envied me when we had a field trip to the McDonalds where my mother worked. I would go on trips with my dad, who was at the time was a truck driver, and would regularly eat microwaved burritos or chili at Wendy’s. During my high school years with a few time consuming extracurriculars, I would dine at a fast food chain at least every two days and eat a cheeseburger without any second thoughts.

When I saw the plethora of fresh produce at the farmer’s markets in Santa Cruz along with the lack of fast food joints, I couldn’t help but question why the access to healthy food here in the Cruz varied so greatly from my hometown near the Port of Los Angeles. I then began to question almost everything about food: what are the ingredients, where was the food made, is this healthy for me? It was in freshmen year when I felt motivated to find such answers and learn more about our food system through experience, which is when I joined the Food Systems Working Group as the “real food” calculator intern.

Fast forward two years later, I still feel that addressing and even talking about food issues in general can be sensitive and a very difficult task at times. Food access is an issue that I hold close to me since I grew up in a low-income area with endless fast food options and a lifestyle that supported such eating habits. Discussing the importance of buying socially, ecologically, and environmentally just food is difficult since not everyone can buy local or organic food and this may cause many of my peers, and even my family to feel uncomfortable. From my experiences, many people are well aware of at least the health issues associated with our current food system. The question for me now is how do we ensure that families have access to the resources available in order to support healthier eating habits and combat the diet related diseases that impact many families with little access to real food- food that nourishes the consumer, community, earth, and producers. Having a dad with diabetes, a sister who was once at risk, and a mother and many tias that currently work in a food system that is designed to exploit many, the food system issues that oppress consumers hits home, very deeply.

I hope to inspire others, no matter their background, to take back their food system and their right to food that is truly good for them. I am very grateful for the experiences I’ve gained working with FSWG and feel that I must continue to take action whether it’s working for a food justice based organization after graduation or applying to law school to ultimately help protect consumers and food system workers in the courts or with policy making. Food is something we all do everyday and for many can be a way of sharing identity and culture with friends and loved ones – we must continue to fight for a just food system that positively impacts consumers, communities, producers, and the environment.

This story is reproduced from the April FSWG e-newsletter. 

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