Grounded in Food Justice

by Lauren Mitten '15

Lauren Mitten

I grew up with a strong ethic of consciousness around food. My parents were committed to eating sustainably, and we often ate organic food, shopped at farmers markets, and avoided highly processed food. As a first-year Scripps student, I got my feet wet in food justice work as a volunteer for Food Rescue, an on-campus organization that takes unused dining hall food to a shelter in Pomona. Food Rescue embodies the best qualities of sustainability — both reducing waste and redirecting resources to places they can be used.

At the end of my first year, when Food Rescue needed a new coordinator, I took the job. I then managed a dozen volunteers who delivered food from Scripps, Harvey Mudd, and Claremont McKenna’s dining halls to the shelter in Pomona.

I took Professor Auerbach’s Political Economy of Food class my sophomore year, which connected some of my food work to politics by introducing me to the concept of food justice. I understand more of the class, race, and gender dynamics of food production and consumption, and I know better how to change food production to improve equity. I also grew more excited about eating foraged food!

As part of Professor Auerbach’s class, eight other 5C students and I participated in Meatless Mondays at Crossroads, Inc., a transitional residence program in Claremont for women who have been incarcerated. Each Monday, we collaborated with Crossroads women to plan and cook a vegetarian dinner incorporating leftover produce from the Claremont Farmers Market. Through this work, I learned a great deal about the prisonindustrial complex, its effects on women, and the way sharing food can bring diverse people together.

Also in my sophomore year, I joined the President’s Advisory Council on Sustainability, and I served as SAS sustainability chair spring semester. Among my many projects was securing fruit picking tools for students to check out from the Tiernan Field House. Today, students get to enjoy picking the fruit on campus, including fruit unreachable by hand. This exemplifies successful food sustainability — we’re helping the environment by eating unprocessed food that didn’t travel long distances and helping ourselves by eating fresh, organic food.

In February, in light of the California drought, students expressed concern about Scripps’ water use. Several of us came together to start the Scripps Water Task Force, an anarchist collective committed to reducing Scripps’ water footprint. Working with Lola Trafecanty, director of grounds, and co-leader of the Sustainability Committee, one of our goals is to replace some areas of grass that are neither functional nor historical with edible gardens. This would save water and provide sustainable food for Scrippsies.

Thanks to many people’s hard work, the grassy meridian on Platt Boulevard (between Harvey Mudd College and Scripps) has been removed and will be retrofitted with a drip system this summer. In the fall, the community will be invited for a drought-tolerant planting party! The Water Task Force is currently seeking support among the Scripps community in removing other areas of grass around campus.

After graduating, I want a career where I can make a difference in the world. Professor Auerbach’s class confirmed for me the importance of community-based work, and I plan to always remain engaged in community endeavors to keep my political work grounded in reality and social justice.


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