UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center hosted professor Megan Carney from the University of Washington, Seattle to give a lecture titled “Back There We Had Nothing to Eat: Food Insecurity and Women’s Migration at the Intersections.”
The lecture, which took place Tuesday afternoon at the McCune Conference Center, focused on the conditions displacing many women and families across borders, how hunger and food insecurity relates to the inequality of opportunities across borders and how gender shapes experiences with food insecurity and health vulnerability for migrants in the United States. Carney’s research focuses specifically on the effects of food insecurity on women who migrate to the United States from Mexico and Central America.
According to Carney, these women experience unique consequences of displacement.
“Women from these communities have faced a unique set of challenges,” Carney said. “Women’s decision to migrate may exhibit a desire to uphold social obligations in the realm of food.”
Carney said the globalization of trade and neoliberal policies have caused food insecurity and subsequently displaced many agrarian communities from Mexico and Central America.
“The North American Free Trade Agreement serves as a prime example of legislation that have displaced many rural Mexican farmers because of their occupation, because they are unable to compete with subsidized produce,” Carney said.
Carney also said food insecurity is a result of structural readjustments to food and trade that come with neoliberal policy.
“Food insecurity is a palpable consequence of policy shifts and represents the depriving politics of the state,” Carney said. “States often do the depriving intentionally or unintentionally.”
First-year communication major Jade Burchett said the lecture explained undocumented migrants’ challenges and motivations and showed that migration is a complex issue.
“I liked that the lecture showed the perspective of a group of people who are so stigmatized,” Burchett said. “Often, people belittle migrants by calling them ‘illegal’ and question their motives for crossing the border. This talk showed their motives and how it’s almost necessary for them to migrate.”
Third-year Chican@ studies major Jorge Gonzalez said the lecture highlighted the struggle many migrant families face trying to provide nutritious meals during economic hardship.
“Due to their unauthorized status, they don’t have access to many jobs and often end up working jobs that only give them 20 minutes to an hour to prepare meals,” Gonzalez said. “Because they don’t have time to prepare meals, these families often use prepared food, which has health consequences.”
Carney said the food financially available to most migrant families is very unhealthy.
“Many of my key informants perceived the abundance of ‘comida chattara,’ or junk food, in the United States as jeopardizing the efforts of migrants to maintain healthy diets for their family members,” Carney said.
Santa Barbara Food Bank and CalFresh Representative Amy Lopez said the Food Bank offers services to the families in Santa Barbara County that face food insecurity.
“The Food Bank of Santa Barbara County is a nonprofit organization that distributes food to people in need and empowers people with nutrition education,” Lopez said.
To learn more about food insecurity and resources for families in Santa Barbara County, visit Santa Barbara Food Bank’s website at www.foodbank.sbc.org.