Thursday, July 8, 2010

Campus Progress National Conference

Yesterday, I and four other interns had the opportunity of attending the 2010 Campus Progress National Conference. I had the honour of facilitating two sessions: the Force of Food and Grassroots vs. Grasstops: Strategies for Achieving LGBT equality. I'll talk about what was discussed in those two sessions and they'll probably turn into two other blog posts in the coming days (just a heads up).

So, I have a great interest in food politics. It developed when I was forced to read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan as an incoming first-year to Colgate. The book really opened my eyes to the food industry of America--the ways we mass produce corn for cheap feed and whatnot; the way we pump antibiotics into our chickens and cows to make them bigger, etc--and was truly eye-opening. From that point I began learning more about food politics--the slow foods movement, sustainable eating, vegetarianism/veganism, the organics movement and accessibility to healthy, locally grown foods. As one can see, I'm totally digging food politics. At the session, the panelists discussed the important of having access to healthy, locally grown foods and that these practices can affect not only one's health, but the economy and vitality of a community. Listeners learned about the concept of 'food deserts'--areas where there is a lack of grocery stores selling slightly nutritious products--and 'food swamps'--areas where there is an overabundance of unhealthy fast food. Listening to the panelists made me slightly angry because we don't tend to think about what we're putting into our bodies. I think that to make that conscious decision to watch what you eat or how you eat is a decision that is a hard one to some extent. I mean, if you've grown up eating meat all your life, educating yourself on the antibiotics our factory farm industry is pumping into them to make them fatter or the plight of small farm owners will not be an easy task, but it is definitely doable. The discussion really helped me to gain a deeper understanding of how deeply rooted our eating habits are and how they can literally change with the times.

The Grassroots vs. Grasstops session focused on the visions of the LGBTQ/Queer-movement and where it should go in the future. Strategies, tactics, and goals were the themes throughout the majority of the discussion. Many panelists voiced concern over the fact that the LGBTQ-movement seems to have shelved other pressing issues for want of marriage equality and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). We discussed the fact that the LGBTQ-movement has not done an effective job of reaching out to communities of colour and faith-based communities (like we saw in Prop. 8, which had nasty effects after Prop. 8 was passed where the LGBTQ-community seemed to overwhelmingly blame Black Californians for the loss). In my facilitation group we again discussed a lack of outreach to communities of colour and faith-based communities and came to the conclusion that there would never be one unified, streamlined vision for the LGBTQ-community, simply because it is a diverse one. However, we thought that a concrete goal, stated simply by an attendee was that, "I shouldn't have to be worried about people knowing I'm gay... sexual orientation should not be a problem."

Overall, the campus was an excellent opportunity. I found that I had most of my amazing conversations with new people outside of the sessions, but learned a lot within the sessions as well. If you ever get a chance, definitely check out the next Campus Progress Conference. You definitely won't regret it! =)

To learn more about food politics, click here.

Photo Credit: Campus Progress

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