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Divergence and Convergence in Food Justice Efforts

These brief profiles of the two groups illustrate important facets of Jesuit higher education, including points of convergence and divergence in the structural and personal modalities of justice. Both groups serve food to people near campus, but they do so with differing purposes. Campus Kitchen focuses on the structural issues of sustainable food practices as they

Justice in Jesuit Education 65 combat food insecurity in low-income households by re-imagining and creating new food capture and distribution systems. Labre Ministry focuses on personal relationships which grow from sharing home-cooked meals with individuals—their friends—experiencing homelessness. Much of their outreach is directed toward changing people’s attitudes—both their own and others—that stigmatize homeless individuals and reinforce their neglect, leading to de humanization on both personal and structural levels.

Both groups involve highly committed student leaders and volunteers who draw a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment from their work. The groups also express a great deal of value in relationship-building and community. Nevertheless, the different contexts, and especially the nature of the work itself, pushes them to emphasize different relationship priorities. The Campus Kitchen students often discussed the close relationships formed with other kitchen volunteers, whereas the Labre students typically discussed the relationships that they had with their unhoused friends. At least part of this difference originates in the highly structured environment of Campus Kitchen, where students are assigned distinctive roles in an elaborate food recovery, production, and redistribution process. These roles promote a high degree of cooperation with other kitchen volunteers, creating close relationships that arc necessary for the high volume of meals that are eventually distributed. By contrast, Labre does not share these same production demands, and students’ roles are less defined by food output needs. This difference, in turn, allows Labre students to direct more of their attention to the quality of relationships that they build with the individuals they arc serving.

A more elaborate analysis of the way in which work context and demands can shape people’s thinking could be applied to these differences in the Campus Kitchen and Labre students. For instance, Habermas’ distinction between goal-oriented “strategic” action and understanding-oriented “communicative” action (see McCarthy, 1978) stands to enrich our understanding of the operational differences and outcomes observed in these two student groups. More compelling than these differences, though, is the way in which the two groups exemplify the complementary dimensions of justice education in the Jesuit tradition. Accordingly, we conclude by showing the deeper complementarity, as well as valuable synergistic possibilities, that arc present in these two groups and their approaches to community service and justice.

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