Becoming a Maker

The classroom can be a portal of sorts.  You can timehop and explore histories and narratives that you’ve never experienced.  You can go deep within your own life and tug at stories, thoughts, and ideas that are brewing inside of you.  Classrooms are so dynamic these days.  We’ve moved so far beyond the notion that schools are spaces that only honor traditional classes such as English and algebra and physics.  Enter food education.

Food education, although not a new concept, has made its way to the forefront of discussion lately.  It’s a way for students to grapple with being thoughtful participants in their own health and wellness narratives.  Students are weaving their core curriculum studies in with food–measuring a teaspoon of smoky cumin here and dissecting a verbose food poem there as a means of better understanding the importance of local, seasonal agriculture in their communities and lives.

For me, food education is a powerful way to get people of all ages to take an active role in their mealtime experience.  Where does this food come from? How far did it travel to get to my plate? Who tended to this food and how were these workers treated? How will this food fuel my body?  They become makers, become involved in experiential learning practices that allow them to use history, time, space, and stories as vehicles for better understanding their food choices.

Food education is exciting because it has the potential to go far beyond making a garden or making pesto.  Food education can be a conduit for understanding how to make a life that places wellness at its core, how to make more sense of issues surrounding food access, how to make a dollar stretch when you’re on a tight grocery budget, how to make space for the produce of local farmers in your kitchen.  The possibilities are endless.

As a FoodCorps  alum, I’ve come to the realization that FoodCorps is also full of makers–people who want to create using their hands, using seedlings, using a classroom of eager third graders.  The challenge, however, is balancing your love for making, for shifting, for transforming, to collaborate with a community that you may or may not belong to.  A good maker knows that creating is about collaborating, listening, respecting boundaries, stepping back, asking for help, and recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses.  A year or two of service, depending on who you are, can and should illuminate issues surrounding privilege, areas of growth and strength, and the inevitable question of how to most effectively and respectfully contribute to a food system that needs quite a bit of fixing.

As a Food and Wellness educator who works to teach people of all ages about home cooking using real, sustainable food as a practice of self-care, I am constantly reminded of how being a maker is inextricably linked to making little ripples in the world alongside the communities that you are in partnership with.  Making ripples and raising important questions can be challenging, but this is because being a maker is not comfortable.  In fact, if you are approaching it correctly, it shouldn’t be comfortable.

During my FoodCorps service term, I was given an opportunity to operate at the ground level of change-making.  Being a maker is rooted in the understanding that we can and should be doing better and that we are able and responsible for making positive, respectful, appropriate shifts in regard to food access and food education.  Looking at the hairy details of a food system that does not serve all of us is not a comfortable feat, but there’s no way around it.  In order to shake things up, we often have to dissect things and reorganize them.  It is in the dissection that we have the potential to stumble across things that are really beautiful: growth, community, lessons, skills, and purpose.