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CESJ Kicks Off Yearlong Series Focused on Racial Equality in Food Systems

By LIndsey Piercy

UK Photo | Pete Comparoni

The Center for Equality and Social Justice(CESJ) at the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences is launching a yearlong series of programs designed to foster conversations about race, justice and our food system.

Just Food, which is being funded through a UK Sustainability Challenge Grant, is designed to engage multidisciplinary teams from the university community in the creation and implementation of ideas that will promote sustainability by simultaneously advancing economic vitality, ecological integrity and social equity.

“There’s an incredible amount of diversity in Kentucky’s local food system. Our hope is that through these events, we can help expose more people to this diversity while elevating voices from farmers, gardeners and activists that are often less well represented in discussions of agriculture in the Commonwealth," Chhaya Kolavalli, assistant director of CESJ and member of Just Food, said.   

On Sept. 13, students, faculty, staff and the Lexington community are invited to join the Just Food conversation by taking a tour of three African American owned farms in Kentucky. Farmers at each site will share their family histories, discuss their diverse practices and serve homegrown snacks. The tour will conclude with a farm-to-table dinner at Ballew Farms. Chef Angelia Drake, From the Heart catering, will prepare a meal featuring products from each of the three farms listed below.

Ballew Estates

Ballew Estates is a pollinators conservation that sits on 40 acres in Waco, Kentucky. Intergenerational farmers will welcome guests by detailing their robust family history. They will also provide an overview of the importance of pollinators to survival. Kentucky Proud/Appalachian Proud products include herbal teas grown from herbs.

Motts Homestead LLC

Motts Homestead is a produce and livestock farm located three miles outside of Richmond, Kentucky. The owners maintain their diverse farm on less and one acre. Kentucky Proud/Appalachian Proud products include fresh eggs, tomatoes, peppers, specialty lettuce, leafy greens and jellies.

S'Hemply Made

These farmers operate a hemp-based company promoting a natural lifestyle. Their products are handcrafted from the finest organic ingredients. They source their hemp oil from Madison County and Clark County.

CESJ believes, in order to re-develop our food system to be racially just, it is important to confront inequality head on. “A key pillar of sustainability is social equity. We’re excited to help efforts to strengthen a sustainable food system within Kentucky through Just Food," Kolavalli explained. "Diverse food producers have a lot of valuable stories to share about the challenges and opportunities they face — stories that can help us build an equitable food system that all folks benefit from.”

For a full list of Just Food events, you can visit the website.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.