Three falls ago, I began my journey as a FoodCorps service member. I knew that FoodCorps would be a great opportunity, what I did not know were the ways in which it would shape…well, everything: my personality, my standards, my future.
FoodCorps founder Curt Ellis once compared food to a prism, saying when you look into it you can see the refractory issues facing our society. Food insecurity stems from hundreds of complex and interwoven obstacles. To improve our food systems and our students’ quality of living, we have to attack this problem from every angle. This quote sat on my desk for two years, as a reminder of the many different ways that FoodCorps members could facilitate change.
I love to say that during FoodCorps I always had hat hair, meaning I got to wear lots of hats and fill lots of roles. I was a grant writer and a teacher. I was a gardener. I was a zoo keeper, chef, cafeteria lady, composter, and farmer. The list goes on and on. FoodCorps gave me the chance to develop almost every skill I could hope to, because every day was so different! Over the course of two years, I taught cooking classes to over 700 students, hosted farmers markets, helped to host the first farm-to-table lunch in Springdale School District, expanded a school garden, reduced food waste at my school, and provided families access to healthy fresh food. I watched as my peers looked at the big food picture and fought straight to the core, never losing hope.
Every day around 200 FoodCorps service members are on the ground, chipping away at food insecurity from every direction. Seeing this, being a part of this—it changes you. Food is such a personal thing. It is one of the only things that we all have in common, yet it can be difficult to discuss, but we must. We must talk about food because our children deserve a healthy future, because our current food system is not sustainable, and because we have drifted too far away from real food.
As a FoodCorps member I learned what I wanted from myself, my community, and my career. I realized that my well-being was directly linked to the well-being of my community, and that in order to be happy I must invest in my community. I realized that food justice was not simply a career for me, it was a lifestyle. I realized that there’s not one solution to this problem, but that with a diverse and passionate youth, nothing is impossible. Most importantly, I realized that I wanted to be paid in produce, progress, and positivity. Witnessing change every single day, is the most empowering thing. I learned the value of people. One student pulling a carrot out of the ground and making a positive connection to healthy food, is more valuable than all of the money in the world.
I now apply the skills (and life lessons) that I developed through FoodCorps as the Program Manager for Apple Seeds Inc. I’m honored to work with FoodCorps members in a new capacity! At AppleSeeds I help to run school garden markets, garden clubs, host farm field trips, consult with teachers and even host teacher trainings. I search for inspiration in the stories of my FoodCorps family and I never forget the ways in which I grew as a FoodCorps service member.