Cal State LA Student Volunteer

Hello! My name is Nicole Altamirano and I am a student at Cal State University Los Angeles. This January 2013 I became involved with AFSC through my History course titled Modern Mexico and the Chicana/o People. The course pays particular attention to food, power and culture in Mexicana/o communities across the U.S./Mexico border. Our Professor, Dr. Enrique Ochoa, provided the class with two options for our term project: a community engagement project and a food history project. I chose the community engagement project because I was eager to learn more about community gardens and food justice, two concepts that were new to me.

So far I have contributed to two cooking sessions, an environmental racism exercise, and three gardening sessions at Lincoln High School.  I often find myself drawing connections between these sessions and what I have learned in class. For example, in our CSULA class we discussed the narrow scope of primary and secondary school curriculum and I feel the Roots for Peace class is serving as a supplement to Lincoln High’s program.  Students are learning skills such as gardening, reading food labels, how to make healthy choices, and cooking, all of which have been omitted from traditional curriculum. Lincoln High has also undergone severe budget cuts which further reduced the previously limited variety of classes available to students.
Volunteering at Lincoln High School always feels more like fun than work. I appreciate the opportunity AFSC has provided for students like me, who want to get involved in their community. Stay tuned, In an upcoming post I will be sharing photographs from our work with students at Lincoln High School.
Food has been a topic of conversation both in our CSULA class and at Lincoln High School. At CSULA we discussed how and to whom food is marketed, food accessibility, and who controls and works in food production. In our environmental racism session at the high school wediscussed the ratio of liquor stores to grocery stores and the availability (or lack of availability) of healthy foods in the immediate area. My sessions at Roots for Peace have enhanced and expanded my understanding of food, power and Mexicana/o communities.Every session I am able to interact with students and discuss more than just that day’s exercise. Conversations often lead to school and plans for college and I am always happy to share my experiences with students.

Written: 19 March 2013

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