Students from Xavier University visited Eastern Market, urban farms and food businesses, helped deliver fresh produce to senior citizens and learned about composting during a three-day immersive learning experience in Detroit, hosted by Detroit Mercy, in early October.
The food justice program was part of an honors course through Xavier’s Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning. Xavier students, seeking to discover the meaning of food justice, heard from more than 20 speakers and visited several community initiatives.
Their goal was simple: Apply what they learn in Detroit to Cincinnati and its food system.
“Detroit is home to some of the most innovative global leaders working on racial and economic equity in the food system,” said Clara Gamalski, Detroit Mercy’s Campus Kitchen program manager. “Food justice means recognizing the ways that our food system intersects with health care, land justice, water access, the environment, sustainability, education and racial equity.”
Campus Kitchen, part of Detroit Mercy’s Institute for Leadership & Service, provides students with opportunities to promotefood justice. Campus Kitchen coordinated all aspects of the immersive experience, co-facilitating the program with the Detroit Food Policy Council.
Three Detroit Mercy students volunteering with Campus Kitchen conducted educational sessions during the immersive experience.
- Melba Dearing, a senior in the five-year MBA program, guided a tour of Eastern Market’s neighborhood focused on black-owned businesses and gentrification.
- Papia Aziz, a senior Nursing student, demonstrated community health and wellness by helping with Campus Kitchen’s fresh produce deliveries to senior citizens with the Princeton Street Block Club, just east of Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus.
- Diana McMahon, a senior Biology student, hosted a composting demonstration, highlighting Detroit Mercy’s new composting initiative in the Titan Dining Room, a program she launched through Campus Kitchen.
The opportunity for Detroit Mercy and Xavier, two Jesuit universities, to connect over something as important as food justice is something Gamalski appreciates.
“I’m hoping that these students will be inspired by the incredible network of farmers, entrepreneurs, community health workers and activists, and feel motivated to build their own institution’s connections to individuals and organizations working for food justice in Cincinnati,” Gamalski said. “I believe that college students are critical actors in the fight for food justice. I’m humbled to have facilitated this experience and grateful for the people who have collaborated with us.”