Oxfam Serves Up a Deep Dish of Disposition

Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.

On Oct. 18, SUNY New Paltz students and local farm volunteers gathered to fight hunger and raise awareness about world hunger by sharing a dish or two.

The international organization Oxfam held their annual World Food Day, and this year, the global event was celebrated in New Paltz for a second time at the World Food Day Potluck, held at the Honors Center.

“The idea of Oxfam is to fight hunger, poverty and social injustice on a global and local scale,” SUNY New Paltz Chapter of Oxfam America co-president, second-year visual arts and physics major, Ann O’Brien, said. “The campus affiliates specifically focus on raising awareness through programs focused around hunger and poverty.”

Co-president, fourth-year contract major Jaklin Levine-Pritzker, said the purpose of the event was to come together over food and create discussion surrounding different areas of food justice.

“More like injustice,” Levine-Pritzker said. “We decided to make it a potluck because there’s something so special about making food to share with others.”

About 30 people attended the event, reaching Levine-Pritzker’s expectations, and many of them volunteered on farms and seemed “very interested and seemed to have learned a lot.”

“We spoke a lot about land grabs on the local and global scale,” Levine-Pritzker said. “We discussed how we could fight global hunger and our kitchen table. The discussion evolved into a passionate discussion about poverty, hunger and urban farming.”

O’Brien said 15 to 20 dishes were shared and though Oxfam encouraged attendees to bring food from local farms, there still was a variety among the cuisine. O’Brien said she brought potatoes with peppers from the farmer’s market and a store-bought apple pie, while Levine-Pritzker shared kale salad.

The event, which took two weeks to plan, featured Lashawn Marston, an artist, activist and educator working to alleviate poverty through community gardening in the largest housing development in the country, Queensbridge, according to Levine-Pritzker.

O’Brien said Marston was intriguing as a speaker because most people in Oxfam are from upstate New York or traditionally rural areas that farm.

“It was really inspiring to hear about using farming to fight poverty in a whole different way and building a community around local gardens in the city and hopefully feeding that community too,” O’Brien said.

Levine-Pritzker said her ultimate goal was to create a safe space to discuss issues relating to hunger, poverty and agriculture.

“I think everyone felt comfortable speaking and asking questions about issues ranging from racism in the food system, global land grabs and local agricultural,” Levine-Pritzker said. “I think it was a mutually sustaining teaching and learning experience for everyone. I’m really happy with how it went.”

For O’Brien, the priority was helping people develop an interest in the topic.

“Part of the event was going over issues like where does food come from, and farmers’ rights,” O’Brien said. “The best thing we can do is bring awareness like that to people.”

According to the Facebook event invitation, there are five “Pillars of the Growth Method” that the chapter aimed to incorporate into their potluck dinner.

The list includes incorporating or saving leftovers to reduce waste, buying products that subscribe to fair trade principles that support small farmers in developing countries, saving energy by cooking smart and using less fossil fuels in food preparation, reducing the energy cost from farm to table by buying seasonally and eating less meat and dairy to cut greenhouse gas emissions and water use.