What is Food Literacy?
People refer to Food Literacy as having a good knowledge about healthy, local food. A lot of the "Food Literacy" projects or organizations would define Food Literacy as "the ability to organize one's everyday nutrition in a self-determined, responsible, and enjoyable way" (http://www.food-literacy.org/en/welcome) or "understanding of food from ground up" (http://www.dining.harvard.edu/flp/index.html). It is usually the word "literacy" that limits the definition of Food Literacy to the knowledge about food, but Iskashitaa is aiming to expand that definition to having access to nutritious local food.
While it takes toll to have people learn proper knowledge of food, guaranteeing that they have access to the good food is a whole different issue. Even if people know what food is healthy and locally grown, some of them can't afford it in the market or don't know where they can find it. That is the case with most of the refugees Iskashitaa is working with; as a result, we have come up with new definition of Food Literacy and are planning to actively advocate people's right to have access to nutritious local food.
So, with that in mind, here's how Iskashitaa defines Food Literacy: Using alternative food sources and agricultural connections to help families and individuals gain meaningful entry into a new society. Through various food-based programs, Iskashitaa makes sure that the refugees are informed not only of healthy food knowledge, but also of how to identify, harvest, process local food and where to find nutritious food on a reasonable price. As of now, Iskashitaa has 6 programs that help refugees to build up Food Literacy--Harvesting and Gleaning, Food Preservation Workshops, Farm visits, Farmer's Markets, Gardens, and Produce on Wheels.
Iskashitaa's Food Literacy Program
1. Harvesting and Gleaning:
Through the harvesting program, refugees learn how to identify, access,
harvest, use and store locally grown produce mostly from edible trees. In
addition, refugees gain valuable experience navigating the city, meeting
Tucsonans, building a US work history, practicing English, and gaining job readiness
training geared towards maintenance and landscaping.
2. Food Preservation
Workshops: Food workshops provide valuable training in food safety, processing,
and handling protocols in order to prepare refugees for jobs in the restaurant
and food service industry. As a follow up to the harvesting program, food
workshops teach refugees how to cook and preserve with new, gleaned food, hence,
bringing the local food system full circle.
3. Farm visits: Visits to local farms and
orchards in Pima and surrounding counties introduce refugees to alternative,
cutting-edge agricultural practices, as well as teaching best practices for
harvesting, cultivation and farming techniques.
4. Farmers’ Markets: Refugees will have the
opportunity to visit and work at various farmers’ markets in Tucson, such as to Rillito farmer's market, Community Food Bank Santa Cruz markets, and to St. Phillip's market. Through the farmer's market visits, refugees will have more access to
local, fresh produce and an incentive to shop at farmers’ markets.
5. Gardens: The community
garden plots can provide refugees who are experienced agriculturalists with a
space to cultivate unique crops and the opportunity to sell their harvested produce
at farmers’ markets through Iskashitaa consignment tables.
6. Produce on Wheels and other
rescued produce entering through Mexico: Trips to Produce on Wheels introduce
refugees to alternate avenues for food security, nutrition and new food
We still have a long way to go; slowly but surely, however, we are getting there. Iskashitaa aims to have all the refugees in our community to have access to nutritious, affordable local food. For the food sustainability and food autonomy of the refugees, we hope to continue our journey of linking people to good food.