by Ben Wollam
Everyone prepare for doomsday, it seems like Malthus was right! We live in an era of undependable crop yields and their even more volatile market prices. With one out of every seven people going to bed starving every night, food security is a huge issue. Oxfam at the University of Texas acknowledges this issue but understands that it is due to a BROKEN FOOD SYSTEM, not a lack of food. There is more than enough food to feed everybody on this planet (sorry, Malthus) but on average 50 percent goes to waste and does not get into the hands of those who most need it. You can help FIX this broken system with us, while learning more about these issues by joining us at our meetings and at our rally this Friday (discussed below).
Oxfam is a humanitarian NGO dedicated to finding sustainable solutions to poverty and hunger. On campus, we use the leverage students have to pressure the university, corporations, and the government to eliminate unjust, extractive policies and adopt more inclusive, egalitarian standards. In the past Oxfam UT succeeded in getting the university to put Fair Trade coffee and chocolate in the dining halls and convinced the company we were receiving gold from for class rings to change their abusive policies toward their workers. We also worked closely with the UT Sweatshop Free Campaign which succeeded last year: now we can be much more assured that longhorn apparel is NOT being produced in abhorrent sweatshop conditions. Collective action like this really does work. I invite all brave souls to follow UT’s legacy of “what starts here changes the world.” Getting involved in organizing and collective action is a crucial cornerstone of democracy – without it, many voices with valid opinions would not be heard.
On Friday Oxfam is hosting a rally for International Women’s’ Day (March 8) from 1:30 – 4:00pm at the Downtown Austin Convention Center. For the past 18 months, Oxfam has engaged in their “Behind the Brands” campaign, doing research on the world’s 10 largest food and beverage companies and rating them on how they treat women, farmers, workers, land rights, water, climate change, and transparency. All of the companies scored below par and although they have a lot of money and power, so do consumers! If we speak up, they have to listen! We will be asking Mondelez, Mars, and Nestle, 3 of the world’s largest food and beverage conglomerates, that women be compensated fully for their work and treated fairly and equally in the work place. This is not a radical, anti-establishment protest; in fact, it’s not even a boycott of the companies’ products. It is a politically correct, professional way to put pressure on them by showing that their consumers are aware and disapprove of the injustice and inequality that they overlook in search of a slightly larger profit margin. And it really does work if enough people come out. We will be chanting, holding posters, and handing out informational flyers. Managers will get nervous and change their policies due to public shaming, especially since this will be going on simultaneously in 15 cities around the nation.
It really does empower students to know how we can make a difference in the food system. Join us to experience this for yourself, all while working for the good causes of fair wages for women and an end to their abusive treatment in the workplace.
To find out more about Oxfam UT, go to: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oxfam-at-the-University-of-Texas/277579795590844
To find out more about the “Behind the Brands” campaign, go to: http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/campaigns/behind-brands
Ben Wollam is a student at UT and is president of the University of Texas chapter of Oxfam.