Defining Success as a Service Member

Our perceptions of success as service members change throughout our service. At the beginning, we might be quick to measure success based on grand accomplishments like creating a sustainable garden committee equipped with the interest, information, and manpower needed to keep the garden running. A few months in, our ideas of success might evolve into smaller accomplishments like hosting just one taste test at a school before the end of our service term. Currently, success to me is all of that and much more. But, before I explain, let me tell you a story.

I don’t want to brag, but I’ve got a few pretty awesome party tricks up my sleeve for when I’m with kids, be it out in the garden, in the classroom, or in the cafeteria. Quite honestly, I do not know if they count as party tricks, but I do know that it leaves the kids in awe (most of the time). For example, I might introduce them to rosemary and its sweet scent, wipe dirt on my face, or eat raw cabbage during a cooking lesson in the classroom. Yes, it helps that children are easily amazed.

My favorite party trick, however, is ripping bananas in half when kids cannot get them opened during lunch. Once I was sitting with a group of third graders and one of the boys sitting next to me couldn’t open his banana. I offered to help, he handed it to me, and I ripped it in half in one swift move. Every single child’s mouth dropped and they sat staring wide eyed at the two banana halves I had in my hands. The silence was broken by one student who said, “She’s so strong!” Another student replied, “It’s because she only eats fruits and vegetables.” I smiled as the young girl beside me grabbed my biceps to feel my muscles.

It’s because she only eats fruits and vegetables.

While there are a few things that must be clarified ( #lovemesomeicecream #tenpushupsmax ), this statement made my week. Here’s why:

Students know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. When I ask them during cooking or garden lessons, “Why do you think I’m adding spinach to this smoothie?” or “Why am I planting fruits and vegetables and not just flowers?” they automatically respond with an answer along the lines of, “because it’s healthy” or “because they’re good for our bodies.” However, when that lunch student came to the conclusion that I’m strong not because I work out or because I’m an adult, but because I eat my fruits and vegetables, my world was rocked.


foodcorps_8137_27055_2015_March_12_Miss Rachel
Miss Rachel, by a budding artist at Bayyari


The success I felt in this story was not what you might expect. I could choose to look at this instance as one where after six months of gardening, cooking, and nutrition education, I have made a difference in one child’s life – small victory, but very important nonetheless. However, I am at a point in my service where I have realized two things:

1) how long change takes

2) how many people it takes to make it

The child who said I’m strong because I eat my fruits and vegetables has been educated by countless others before me. The success is not mine alone, but ours. It is a success made possible by my efforts and those of the FoodCorps service members before me, the efforts of the farmers, the cafeteria staff, the teachers and of the parents, and all who are moving and shaking in this line of work. We all combine forces to make a difference in kids’ lives and equip them with the access, education, and experiences they need to grow up healthy, even if it is just one child at a time.