Guest speaker Maisha Moses (right) answering follow-up questions about her topic of educational equity with guest speaker Breanna Hawkins (left). JIZELLE SAUCEDO | THE POLY POST

‘Uplifting our Communities through Educational Equity and Food Justice’: a campus effort for a more inclusive conversation

“Uplifting our Communities through Educational Equity and Food Justice” brought the Cal Poly Pomona community together on Feb. 26 to hear from Breanna Hawkins, who serves as a social justice and policy professional, and Maisha Moses, who works with the Algebra Project and the Young People’s Project (YPP). The YPP gathers high school students around the country who become math literacy workers, educating elementary students in their community. 

Hawkins and Moses highlighted the struggles that individuals face with receiving equal education opportunities and easy access to healthier food options.

Students, staff and faculty gathered in Ursa Major located in the Bronco Student Center (BSC, Building 35) from 2:30-5:30 p.m. to learn about Hawkins’ strong passion for food justice and Moses’ experiences to inform the crowd of educational equity.

Hawkins actively contributes to First 5 Los Angeles by proposing actions to develop safe, healthy and sustainable communities. First 5 LA is an organization that works toward the well-being and success of students in L.A. County. 

As an experienced food justice leader and policy professional, Hawkins started the presentation with her background of living in South L.A. She described the barriers South L.A. faced, such as the segregation of minorities, compared to other areas in Los Angeles.

“To show an example of inequity, there is one grocery store for almost 10,000 people in South L.A. versus one grocery store for 8,000 people in West L.A. This means with fewer people to one grocery store in West L.A., consumers have more access to different food options,” Hawkins said.

Guest speaker Maisha Moses (right) answering follow-up questions about her topic of educational equity with guest speaker Breanna Hawkins (left).
(Jizelle Saucedo | The Poly Post)

Hawkins described how the limited resources and little opportunity for healthier food options for these populations result in many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. 

Her main goals include bringing more resources to minorities who face barriers obtaining healthy food options and lessening the consumption of foods that lead to chronic diseases.

After Hawkins’ presentation, Moses came on stage to present her education experience with the segregation she and other African Americans faced. Through her involvement with the Algebra Project and the YPP, Moses tackled the topics of education equity and math literacy today.

“The main goal for the Algebra Project was to try to get A: an agreement about getting to teach all students algebra and B: getting teachers to think about how to teach it differently,” Moses said. “However, this was a deep and complex problem that took the time to put all the pieces together.” 

Moses explained the impact that teachers have on students’ academic involvement in their math courses, and stressed the significance of education equity to show how students of any race, gender or ethnicity have the chance to receive the same education opportunities.  

Associate professor of education Myriam Casimir attended the event with the students enrolled in her “building relationships with youths, families and communities” course. The course revolves around social justice and equity in education.

“I felt this event helped show my students that plan to be teachers how these people worked with not only the kids, but with the parents and community. Overall, I also enjoyed the topic presented by Breanna because her group works with the community and (makes) a difference through food justice,” Casimir said.

Sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, this event marks the first of three Campus Equity Dialogues planned for this semester, which serve to bring a stronger sense of inclusivity at CPP. 

The next event of the Campus Equity Series is “Becoming and Decolonizing Hispanic-Serving Institutions” from 2:30 to 4 p.m. March 5 in Ursa Major Suite C, located inside the BSC.

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