By: Lucia Goyen
At the recent IPSA conference on Food Security, I was able to delve into the deeper issues of food sovereignty during the afternoon workshop titled Indigenous Peoples. In it, the two speakers, Murielle Borst from the Kuna and Rappahannock tribes and Alison Cohen from World Hunger Year outlined the use of food as a weapon and the lack of power many communities have over their basic food choices. Many development programs dealing with food security often have an element of nutrition training, something that can, and often does, conflict directly with local cultures. As Borst explained, these outside people, under the guise of food security and good intentions, are sometimes seen as using nutrition as a tool of gentrification. These programs usually include outside supplements, that while raising caloric intake, negate the eating practices of local communities and force recipients to change their eating styles to one more “Westernized”, which can cause obesity, diabetes, and other health problems, as we have seen in many Native American cultures. As the speakers explained, food shortages are part of larger systemic issues of power, politics, loss of environment, lack of clean water, etc. Without addressing all these issues, a community can never really be “food secure.”
The sad fact is that much of the world, even us here in the U.S., are so far removed from our food that we do not see the effects these changes have on our health, our way of life, and the way we relate to one another. Food and water are basic essentials of life, but many people have little control over what they can eat, where they can access water (if they can even access clean water), and how much they are made to pay for these basic rights. As with everything we have learned at Wagner, there is no panacea to solve the massive issue of hunger; people must be able to reclaim these rights and have true power to access real choices.