The event, a collaboration between the Middlesex College Center for Justice-Impacted Students and the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC), will feature self-guided tours, refreshments, an interactive art project, and a food justice panel that will include Yvette Molina, Program Advocate, New Brunswick Center; Spencer McCray, Program Coordinator, Center for Justice-Impacted Students; and Jason Reyes, a student at Middlesex College.
“The American Council of Learned Societies provided grant funds to support both the development of this showcase as well as a wealth of humanities-based programming that Middlesex College’s Center for Justice-Impacted Students was able to offer to both the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center and the Camden County Juvenile Detention Center over the course of this past academic year,” said Alexandra Fields, Academic Director of the College’s Center for Justice-Impacted Students.
“Our hope in generating this showcase is not only to raise awareness about issues of food insecurity within our local communities and the larger state of New Jersey, but to also help participants see how these issues are often exacerbated within carceral settings,” Fields said.
Senem Kaptan, one of the showcase’s organizers, elaborated on how systemic discrimination has led to the unequal access to fresh and healthy foods that have contributed to an unhealthy lifestyle and potential medical problems in many communities of color.
“We would like to highlight that food insecurity impacts many communities but emphasize that food injustice doesn’t just happen to specific populations by chance; it is the result of long-standing racially discriminatory policies and practices that have marginalized low-income communities and communities of color and prevented them from accessing resources, including food, and opportunities for growth and wellbeing,” Kaptan explained.
“In that sense, food insecurity is directly connected to broader social, economic, and environmental policies and issues,” she added.
Since 2017, Middlesex College has partnered with the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) to offer college courses to JDC residents through the Juvenile Justice Reform Club. One of the goals of the showcase is to promote the community garden created by Middlesex College students, staff, faculty and members of the JDC staff.
“The garden was a direct result of the requests of our JDC students, who conveyed concern about the quality of food inside the facility and expressed a desire to have access to nutritious food,” said Kaptan.
“Taking the students’ concerns and requests into account, the two institutions collaborated to design, construct, and maintain the garden so that JDC residents can grow their own food and feel empowered about their food choices.”
Kaptan hopes that people who visit the showcase will see how the problem persists for incarcerated people and highlight the efforts of the JDC to combat food supply availability and quality. There will be information displayed and the chance to ask questions of knowledgeable panelists on the issue.
“We also hope that we will be able to bring the voices of JDC residents to our campus community and allow attendees to get to know them, even if they cannot physically be present on campus to join us for the Showcase,” said Kaptan.
For more information about the Food Justice Showcase and Symposium, visit middlesexcollege.edu/events.
To learn more about educational opportunities for justice-impacted students, visit the Center for Justice-Impacted Students.