Carmina and fellow travelers stood in solidarity with farmworkers as they continued their march to Sacramento after marching with them for 2 hrs ending in Lodi.
Recently I spoke with Carmina Gomez of the 2011 food and freedom rides about her experience participating in the week-long food justice ride through California. I was in the right place at the right time to meet this 21 year old college grad. We met on the last day of her ride at her Oakland trip report back when she had literally gotten off the bus just a few hours earlier.
This summer, Live Real commemorated the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights era with a journey exposing food injustices and innovations in communities across America, from the 'hood to the heartland. Thus, the Food and Freedom Rides were born and Carmina joined the ride in California.
The team traveled through California to expose and uplift stories from farmers, food chain workers, and food and freedom fighters. The riders spoke with youth along the way
about federal food policy, and carried out the message of food justice to our political decision-makers.
“Definitely more than a learning experience. I grew in my understanding of the plight of workers and the urgency of fair workers rights. It was a lot,” said Carmina in a phone interview.
The trip was one week in length but carried with it a lifetime worth of memories. Traveling in a 12 passenger van, the group stayed at friends’ homes and family-owned farms along the way.
For Carmina, it was a personal passion to highlight the issues of nutrition and food access to communities of color. “I was always interested in nutrition, obesity and food access issues amongst youth of color,” said Carmina. “Food is our foundation, if we aren’t feeding ourselves good food, we are not healthy. Not having good health means you can't be as productive in society."
A recent news report in the San Jose Mercury News highlighted the rise of small grocers due to the epidemic of food deserts. Food Deserts are fefined by the federal government as any low-income census area where at least a third of residents live more than a mile from a supermarket.
“We need to change the way we eat and what type of food is available for our low-income communities from East Los Angeles to East Oakland California” Carmina pointed out.
Carmina also doesn’t shy away from the need for personal responsibility among folks in her community as well.
“More people in our communities need to know whats going with our food. Educating my communities around these important issues is critically important,” she pointed out. “Educating the community about what bad food means to their body and making a case for a healthy food component within their upbringing is critically important.”
Along the trip there were some points that stuck out for Carmina. One was a chance meeting with young people in Modesto, from Project Uplift. “I felt honored and inspired to talk with them with consistent thoughts of how to bring this back home.” said Carmina reflecting back on her trip.
Carmina does have hope and is optimistic about the future of food justice but does challenge young people and other communities to step up in the food justice struggle. “We need more youth to take trips like this. Parents should come too and show how important it is to provide healthy food. As long as awareness campaigns like this exist we can help shift thinking in our society.”
Carmina Gomez is currently a Health Policy Intern for The Alliance for a Better Community in Los Angeles. She will be applying to grad school in 2012 and aspires to be a Doctor of Public Health and continue doing food justice advocacy.
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