Episode 30: Immigrant Visibility in Food Systems with Vanessa Garcia Polanco

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When we think of what a food system is, we tend to think of it as a static structure, rather than a complex system of people working at different levels, or the diversity of communities working towards sustaining foodways. This week, we’re discussing how to create more diverse and equitable food systems in America with Vanessa Garcia Polanco. Vanessa is a current graduate student in Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, and an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. She is an alumna of the Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute and the University of Rhode Island.

 As a member of Food Solutions New England and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Vanessa has served at the local, state, and regional levels to promote democratic empowerment, racial equity, and visibility of immigrants in food systems. She worked as a chair for communications and outreach at the Rhode Island Food Policy Council and as a program assistant at the URI Cooperative Extension.

In our discussion, we explore the idea of what a food system is and the limitations of the term, the ways in which language and actions in food studies can disempower or disenfranchise people of colour and immigrants’ agency, and how Vanessa challenges these ideas with her own research and writing. I first came across her work on Twitter through a hashtag she started called #FoodJusticeFridays and was struck by her activism and perspectives on the food system, so I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with her – as I’m sure she’s going to be out changing food policy and economics one day not so far from now!

Listen to the full episode in the player above, or download on Stitcher, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or iHeartRadio!


A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism by Eric Holt Giménez

Food Solutions New England 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge 

Farming While Black by Leah Penniman

To Serve a Larger Purpose 

Get Social with Vanessa!

Twitter: @vpgvisions

Vanessa’s Website

Hashtags to Follow: #foodjusticefridays #dominicanfoodstudies #foodisneverjustfood