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Universities have an important role to play in cultivating global citizens who care about other places. The Food in Culture and Social Justice Program’s Intercultural Learning Community (ILC) does precisely this, while also accommodating students’ demanding term-by-term schedules. Through cross-cultural dialogue, collaboration, and experiential learning, participants share their passions for food and social justice while also developing their knowledge, social networks, and capacity for engaging food systems issues as global citizens rooted in local realities.
This year’s ILC brought together a multicultural group of 18 people (undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and community members) from the United States and Ecuador. Participants were selected based on their ability to enlighten the group about some aspect of the food system and their generosity of spirit. In all there were nine participants from each country, who completed a preparatory course, FCSJ 454/554. International Perspectives on Food Systems, and worked together to plan activities for each trip segment. In September, the Ecuadorians journeyed north for the ILC’s Oregon portion; in December, the group convened in Ecuador.
Oregon and Ecuador were excellent choices for achieving the ILC's goals and are alike in more ways than one might first guess. They are similar in size and situated on the Pacific coast, both have volcanic mountain ranges and diverse ecosystems, and each ships food into the other; Oregon wheat is exported to Ecuador while chocolate, bananas, and coffee make their way from Ecuador to Oregon. Perhaps most importantly, both countries have strong activist food movements.
Together ILC participants explored a number of themes including food sovereignty vs. food security, public policy and its implementation, organic vs. agroecological farming, methods of certification, plant breeding, cooking, school food, colonialism and decolonization of indigenous food, spiritual connections to the land through food, gender roles in food, and rural-urban and university-public relations. Going forward participants are working on co-authored publications, conference presentations, an internship, and even a documentary film (check out the trailer, below).