Food as “Home”, and the Importance of Building Food Justice in KW
by Divya Sarin
Guest Blog by Vanessa Ong - Littlefoot Community Projects
When I think deeply of my childhood, I remember that food is a sort of medicine - a symbol of nourishment and togetherness, an invaluable product of cultural memory and a tether to my ancestors.
As a queer, Teochew-Vietnamese-Canadian woman and second generation immigrant, I felt naturally drawn to community food work early on in my university career. I found deep purpose in advocating for systemic changes within food systems and communities, while also exploring personal questions related to my cultural identity through food. Food is intimately tied to my concept of “home” - I grew up in a multi-generational household, where food served as a centrepiece for intergenerational learning, celebration, prayer and remembrance, and gathering.
At the same time, I struggled to navigate the negative perceptions of farming and agriculture held within my family. My family carries long-held stigmas around farm work, owing to normalized views of farming as the work of the poor, forceful land reform enforced by the communist government in Vietnam, and experiences of racial injustice when serving as farm workers as new immigrants in Canada. As an added layer, I faced internal conflicts with my Asian identity and also experienced food shame on a number of occasions growing up in white-suburban Burlington. While this history complicated my entry into this field, it also continually drives me to re-imagine and re-story my relationships to land, agriculture, and cultural foods.