The Business of Food Equity
By Kina Velasco ’22
Members of business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi worked with local nonprofit Veggielution to help give local residents better access to healthy, affordable, and culturally significant foods.
Born in Manila, Philippines, Gino Herbosa ’23 spent every Christmas from middle school until college helping out in Tondo. One of the most impoverished communities in the Philippines, residents of Tondo often live in slums and depend on scavenging for resources. Herbosa and his family would buy salted crackers, canned tuna, and a Filipino favorite—corned beef—from the grocery store, and drive 30 minutes to distribute food in the sweltering Manila heat.
Now a third-year student and member of the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi (DSP), Herbosa wanted to continue his tradition of supporting nearby communities. This time in his college home.
While residents of the Bay Area face significantly different challenges than the people Herbosa helped in Tondo, issues of food inequity and sovereignty are a real problem. Many in the region lack access to healthy and affordable food in their neighborhoods.
In the Mayfair neighborhood of San Jose, for example, the median household income is just $60,000 and one in three families is on public assistance. The pandemic has hit this community particularly hard, where one-third of residents work in the service industry.
In the fall quarter, Herbosa helped plan a chapter service trip in partnership with Veggielution—a nonprofit that promotes food sovereignty and fights food inequities for East San Jose residents. Located in Mayfair, Veggielution connects people from diverse backgrounds through food and farming. The organization leads a variety of projects—including an eight-acre community garden in Emma Prusch Farm Park—which help support a sustainable food system in San Jose. Produce from the community garden is sold at the Farm Stand and whatever isn’t sold is donated to several local food banks.
Herbosa first heard about Veggielution through a fellow DSP member, who is a full-time volunteer with the organization.
“Veggielution has a lot of entrepreneurship programs meant to help the community and connect them with ways to start food-oriented businesses,” says Veggielution volunteer Antonio Amore Rojas ’23.
Twelve DSP members spent the day at Emma Prusch Farm Park, working with Veggielution’s group of volunteers. The students formed an assembly line, deseeding vegetable crops and fertilizing and potting soil to expedite the farming process.
Located at the corner of King and Story roads, Emma Prusch Farm Park is a gathering space for the community and a connection to the valley's agricultural past. The plot offers working-class residents of King and Story neighborhoods access to healthy food and well-maintained outdoor spaces. It features a community garden, rare fruit orchard, playground and field, small animal feeding area, and 4H raises farm animals in California’s largest freestanding barn.
“My culture is very based upon farming and crops,” Herbosa says, “So it was really great to be a part of that in a different context or country.”
Keane Ching ’23, a marketing major who also grew up in the Philippines, says he didn’t have any experience in farming or gardening. That meant the service event was a crash course in agriculture, pulling him out of his academic bubble and forcing him to get his hands dirty while gaining an appreciation for where food comes from.
“It was an awesome change of scenery and a way for me to appreciate how much effort goes into growing crops,” Ching says, pointing out the hard work and skill required to cultivate just one piece of food—from manual labor to perfecting the soil composition.
“Food waste at SCU is huge—you’ll see all the trash cans at Benson overflowing with food waste,” Ching says. “This trip made me more conscious of that.”
The term brotherhood is thrown around loosely, but it really holds true for us.
The service event was just a few hours and their impact modest, but Herbosa and his DSP brothers know service trips like these accomplish a crucial first step—being there. Volunteering that day made it more likely everyone involved would come back.
Newly elected DSP President Karim Tounkara ’23 hopes service events like the Veggielution collaboration and other professional development seminars scheduled for later this quarter will encourage more students to get involved with DSP. He’s made inclusivity a priority for the fraternity this academic year, opening up events to the whole Santa Clara community—not just members of DSP.
As the first Black president of the chapter, Tounkara is familiar with the common narrative of fraternities as a place primarily for white students. In fact, he was somewhat skeptical of how he’d fit in before rushing the fraternity, saying he didn’t see anyone who looked like him.
However, his experience thus far has been extremely positive, saying the fraternity is “really like a big family” that pairs a passion for business with meaningful community service. Tounkara wants to use his position as a leader to make the group as inclusive as possible, encouraging students from all backgrounds to participate in work they’re passionate about.
“The term brotherhood is thrown around loosely, but it really holds true for us,” Tounkara says. “When you come into the chapter and meet all these older brothers who’ve done so many great things, it really pushes you to be as great as them, especially when they’re willing to teach you and be there for you.”