by Hnin Hnin and Kyle Schafer
When Slow Food on Campus and UNITE HERE’s Stir It Up Campaign celebrated National Food Month together with Eat-Ins –part potluck, part protest– across the country, it signaled a small but inspiring convergence of two worlds: sustainable food & sustainable jobs.
Over 300 people participated in 6 Eat-Ins hosted by students and local union members at Northwestern, Wesleyan, and Harvard and Yale (jointly) and by SFOC chapters at Hamilton, Vassar, and Clemson. While each Eat-In was unique, they all shared the goal of building community to create change for good food and food workers—including everyone from the farmers and farmworkers who produce the food to the campus dining workers who serve it up.
It’s not a new idea, but it is just now starting to grab the attention of the on-campus food movement: the fight for sustainable food is tied to the struggle for sustainable jobs. Processed food requires less skill to prepare. Lower skills requirements means lower wages for food workers. So when food preparation consists of switching knives for scissors to open bags of processed food, we have to ask ourselves: what’s the difference between skimping on fair wages and benefits and skimping on fresh, healthy food? By sharing stories over a meal, students and dining workers get a chance to hear how the same broken food system impacts one another on both sides of the counter. They get inspired to change campus food together.