FoodCorps spans 17 states and Washington, D.C., meaning experiences of service members can be totally different depending upon where they serve. Because of this, FoodCorps service is open to creativity, and service members rely on their own personal strengths all while building upon the strengths that already exist in the communities that they serve. From my Connecticut cohort to all two hundred plus service members spread across the nation, you can imagine how every single service experience is unique because of these key factors.
I serve in two schools in Hartford, CT: one school had a service member present a few years prior, and the other is a brand new FoodCorps school. At the beginning of the term, I had excellent advisors at both schools that were able to help me get started with service.
At the start of the school year, as someone who was new to the farm to school world in my service community, and, as an introvert, I was nervous about asking too many questions and about reeling in key stakeholders. I needed to put myself out there, provide energy, and build relationships with teachers and students. This was not as easy as I expected. As a brand new face in the school the first month, I may have been mistaken for a student once or twice, but once I showed interest in teachers and administrators, they in return showed interest in me. As the year has progressed, I have developed a special connection with the teachers I work with as well as the administrative staff. In fact, the more I reached out for connection and information such as, “What did you and your kids do this past weekend?” or “What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home?” the more confident I became in the school. I began to thrive off of this new social support and felt myself becoming a part of the school community.
This was a very important aspect of my service year to me because I learned that establishing and nurturing relationships is a vital component in creating change. Although this seemed daunting at first, I am grateful and lucky that my time serving with FoodCorps in Hartford has taught me the value of being present, participating, and connecting with others.