Q & A with Food Justice Advocate and BCLA Student: Brooke Duplantier

Brooke Duplantier ’19 has spent her time at LMU becoming more aware of and engaging in causes related to food, culture, and social justice. As a senior double majoring in English and political science, Duplantier enjoys critically evaluating these issues in the classroom and using her knowledge to serve the public good. As the coordinator of LMU’s food pantry and a volunteer with the on-campus garden, she works to decrease food insecurity and increase access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Additionally, she is a member of Sursum Corda, a service organization focused on hunger awareness. She is also the president of LMU’s Oxfam America club, which works to end poverty and social injustices worldwide. All of Duplantier’s work was recently recognized. She was the only student to receive the Hidden Heroes Award honoring her exceptional contributions to the LMU community.

Q: How has your double major in English and political science contributed to your interest and work in social justice? 

Through my English major, I have pursued reading and analysis of stories featuring diverse voices and authors, particularly with experiences that reflect historical and current social justice issues in the United States. Reading Chicana/Latina work taught me about the struggles of this community within Los Angeles and beyond. Reading Louise Erdrich showed me the rich culture of Native Americans, which has been the subject of colonization in this country for centuries. In my opinion, reading literature today means reading stories that have been overlooked, and stories that may not represent your own experience but capture the experiences of others. Literature for me is inherently tied to social justice.

On the other hand, I have often viewed political science as my “social justice” major. I decided to study political science because the student activists I knew were all political science majors and because I wanted a space to discuss the issues that were taking place in our world. Through this major, I have chosen classes with social justice focuses. The standout class that has influenced my own social justice work was a course on food politics, taught by Professor Jodi Finkel last year.

Q: Can you share with us your own personal definition of the Hidden Heroes award?

The Hidden Heroes award recognizes the work of individuals who are restoring a part of the community with their own skills and innovation. It is often the work that is behind the scenes, goes unnoticed, or is not broadcasted, because the work is done for the community and not for reward.

Q: What was it like to receive the award? And how was the award ceremony?

The ceremony was incredible, and mostly, I was humbled to be included with so many amazing individuals creating change in their communities. I was inspired by the other stories, and it was a unique experience to see my life crafted into a narrative, even though I’m only 22!

Q: What are your plans going forward after having received the Hidden Heroes award?

I am focusing on accomplishing the goals I have set out for our Food Pantry, as well as looking for new hands to train and take over this work next year. I want to stay committed to seeing the pantry expand, while drawing attention to the issue of food insecurity in our community.

Q: How are you involved with LMU’s food pantry, as well as the Food Recovery Network?

This is my second year working as the Food Pantry coordinator, and I was the first student worker for the pantry when I was hired in fall 2017. Due to a change in my supervisors over the years, I became the most consistent worker for the pantry, and then the resident expert, since I was most closely involved in it. Now, thankfully, the pantry has another worker and a steady supervisor for support!

I also began serving with Food Recovery Network about two years ago. It was introduced to me through my service organization, Sursum Corda, and I felt it was massively important to use our campus food waste to feed the LA community. I first started going occasionally, then weekly, and now, due to time constraints, I go monthly. I hope to make this a weekly process again next semester.

Q: What is your favorite part of being president of Oxfam club?

Oxfam has taught me the importance of addressing root causes of social justice issues with sustained problem-solving and community led projects. I am honored to be a representative of an organization doing this work. My favorite part of being president has been watching my club members understand the different intersections of identity, politics, and hunger during the planning of our Hunger Banquet. I hope that they feel better equipped to talk about important issues with their friends and peers on our campus.

Q: How are you involved with LMU’s on-campus garden?

Kathleen Green, the garden manager, and I started a great relationship this semester between the Food Pantry and the Campus Garden. Kathleen helped me get plot space and crops to begin growing for student distribution. Due to some construction near the garden, our plans to hand out this food are postponed until this spring. We are both committed to the vision of providing students organic and fresh food right here on campus.

Q: In your interview with The Loyolan, you mention finding out more about food insecurity once being elected to Social Justice Chair in Sursum Corda. How did you educate yourself more about food insecurity?

A lot of this education came from reading articles and websites of non-profit organizations, from people with the experience and expertise already working toward food justice. The documentary Wasted and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma were great introductions into this world. Then, I started paying attention to the food system, and noticing in my own communities at home how we interact with this system. My own family lives within a food desert, and I didn’t realize this influenced my own eating habits until I truly understood this definition.

Q: Do you have any advice for LMU students who wish to get more involved in social justice issues?

It is relatively easy to be involved and informed, it just takes time. So take the time to listen to stories, through YouTube, podcasts, documentaries, at rallies, on Instagram, etc. of people and events around our world. Then read. Read literature, read theory, and read humbly, assuming that you do not understand everything and assuming that more reading will help you get there. Then talk to people. Talk to everyone, and rant about the things that frustrate you, confuse you, provoke you. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, just start doing. If you see something that needs to be done, and you know you have the skills to do it, take the initiative. Apply for the job, do the service, attend the rallies. You’ll learn along the way!