Art class brings community awareness to food insecurity at Thanksgiving

For students in the Honors Community Engaged Arts class, the opportunity to contribute to a project that brings awareness to food insecurity around Thanksgiving was rewarding, revealing, and deeply personal.

“This project has allowed me to understand the actual logistics of what it means to tackle this huge issue of food insecurity. I have been able to engage with local parents to understand their needs, as well as understand what must to be done to reach them,” says communications major Jorge Cortez ’20. “Our work must not further marginalize or perpetuate stigma for the intended audience.”

In partnership with Marin Health and Community Services, the Dominican art class is helping support outreach efforts for the Cal Fresh Program to promote the idea of health and well-being through food access in Marin County. On November 16, the students’ art works were installed in the main lobby of Marin Health and Wellness Campus in San Rafael. On November 21, art was installed at the Albert Boro Community Center in San Rafael.

“Our students have learned about the challenges the county faces to reach and sign up participants, such as general stigma about `well-fare’ and myths that negatively impact immigrant families,” says Lynn Sondag, chair and associate professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design.

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Students worked alongside parents and toddlers from the Parent Services Project in order to engage with the community and families who participate in the Cal Fresh program.

The artwork is composed of recycled materials, such as produce boxes and discarded flag pole banners.  Students drew their inspiration for their creations from their conversations with parents and children.

“It’s definitely changed my perception and deepened my understanding of what community engaged art stands for,” says Selah Laigo ’21, a Humanities major. “My project is about bringing food home.”

Selah’s art work featured doors with bags of groceries placed on the doorsteps. Jose’s art work was inspired by Diego Rivera’s Dia de Flores painting, with an array of fresh fruits and vegetables designed to support Cal Fresh’s efforts to reach the underrepresented community of mostly Latino people in Marin.

Psychology major Sophia Root ’19 wants her work to convey that healthy food can lead to growth of health, community, and happiness.

“This project has impacted me, especially about the importance of art in a community. I did not think art could connect a society together in such a powerful and emotional way,” Sophia says.

Marin County ranks 53 out of 58 counties in California in signing up eligible Cal Fresh participants, and California ranks third from the bottom of states reaching eligible participants with the federal funds.

“I have had family members who have participated in similar programs,” Selah says. “It was shocking to learn that a lot of people who are eligible for the program are not participating in it. So I’m trying to paint the program in a good light.”


November 20, 2017