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“When we acknowledge that racial inequity exists in our community and involves us all, we can strive to ensure that, first, our work does not perpetuate racial inequity, and second, that our work instead helps to build a more racially equitable community.”- Sari Albornoz, Grow Local Program Director

Racism is a subject that is difficult to talk about, uncomfortable to confront, and absolutely necessary in addressing the work that we do regarding food access here in Austin. Because our City has a difficult history of race-based discrimination, we as a non-profit have the very difficult task of not only dealing with the ramifications of this history, but finding ways to actively undo the systems that allow discrimination to continue. Over the last 4 months, staff at Sustainable Food Center has been participating in racial justice trainings led by Dr. Martha Ramos-Duffer and Paula X. Rojas.

SFC decided to dedicate the time and effort to this all-staff training in order to build a foundation and shared language among staff. The training provided a concise and factual narrative about the evolution of institutionalized racism in the United States. The trainers also facilitated challenging conversations about our experiences with discrimination and privilege. As Andrew Smiley, Deputy Director said, “Most people working in the social sector, including SFC employees, have a basic knowledge of health disparities along racial lines in our community and nationwide... It is important for our staff to fully comprehend institutional racism as the basis of many of the disparities that exist in our community.”

Part of the training included an audit of the work that we are currently doing. We celebrated aspects of our programs that are working well and began to dream of where we would like to be. We have incorporated the lessons and considerations from this training into our annual operational plan this year, and have set clear long-term goals for ourselves to more actively and intentionally use our programs to undo racism.

“[I] was particularly excited about emphasizing programming and recipes that lift up the health value of traditional cuisines and support class participants to make food choices that feel good and right to them within a culturally appropriate context.” - Molly Costigan, The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® Program Manager

We are excited about being more comfortable having conversations about racism within and outside of SFC. As Andrew notes, “this training has resulted in an organization-wide commitment to follow through on specific actions. Documenting these actions, and monitoring our progress, creates a level of accountability – to ourselves and to the community.”

Our next topic will be on how SFC can be an ally in our community. A huge thank you to Paula and Martha for their excellent leadership and deep knowledge!