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Dr. Dorceta Taylor’s Address on “Race, Poverty, and Access to Food in America”

By Paula Dallacqua, Contributor

Last Wednesday, September 18th, the Harvest Moon sits in a particularly beautiful autumn night sky, and watches a crowd of people file into Sangren Hall, the building that houses Western Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Development.

Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, has brought together quite the diverse group of folks for her keynote address, “Race, Poverty, and Access to Food in America: Resistance, Survival, and Sustainability”, which concludes Western Michigan University’s day-long event, “A Day on Race, Poverty, & Access to Food”.

Despite the large attendance, Dr. Taylor’s steady voice sets a laid back tone for the talk. She likes to interact with her audience, frequently interjecting with questions, and joking just enough to establish a sense of familiarity with the room of strangers.

In 2012, through funding provided by the US Department of Agriculture, Dr. Taylor embarked on a five-year, $4-million study in order to research 18 smaller and mid-sized Michigan cities with high populations of minorities, along with other residents who may have low-income and poor access to food.

In an interview with Kelle Barr of Michigan Night Light’s online publication, Dr. Taylor explains that her study is trying “to find out if minority families and other low-income residents, no matter their race, don’t have access to healthy, affordable foods like [we] see in some larger cities.”

A hefty portion of Dr. Taylor’s presentation involved an overview of the systematic attempts to control historically subjugated populations in the U.S. via the manipulation of food supply, as well as several examples of discrimination.

Students at Kalamazoo College who are interested in getting involved with fair food movements should check out the local non-profit, Fair Food Matters. Founded in 2001, Fair Food Matters is committed to improving access to healthy, local food within the Kalamazoo community. Check out their website at: www.fairfoodmatters.org. Students can also look into student organizations such as Farms 2 K or Digging In Renewable Turf (DIRT) to further explore food matters.

Although the talk attempted to leave on a positive note, questions of how to tackle the tangled systems of oppression seemed to shadow even the moonlight that guided the students back to the College’s campus.