As many of us can relate to, the second question I am most frequently asked, after my name, is “What do you do?” This question often leads to a flurry of confusion on both the questioners and respondent’s end. I often become flustered when trying to explain exactly what I do as a FoodCorps service member.
After a long string of “ahh”s “errm”s and “well”s, I generally decide to save my exasperated questioner from my failed attempt at a full explanation and default to a well-rehearsed spiel. “I’m a FoodCorps member who serves in the city of Athens. I teach kids about healthy lifestyles through garden and nutrition education.”
This well-ironed answer satisfies many a questioner. However, there are those other curious types whose interests are piqued by my ambiguity.
The truth is, there is no short way of relaying my average day here in Athens. Before my service began, I heard many a FoodCorps service members trying to explain this unique challenge. “There is no average day,” they’d pipe away, esoterically. “Every day is different from the last.” But it wasn’t until I became a service member myself that I really understood the sentiment. Therefore, I have decided to try my poetic hand at an acrostic that will further elucidate the various aspects of my daily service.
F – Young Urban FARMERS. Twice a week, my FoodCorps Service partner, Rachel Waldron, and I work with between 9 and 14 of Athen’s hardest-working teens at the West Broad Market Garden. We turn compost, weed beds, fix leaky irrigation lines, start seeds, transplant, water, mulch, and more. We also have some fun by going on cool field trips (like to Mills Farm to watch the process of traditional grit-making), cooking up weird and interesting foods (kale, collard and jalapeno juice, anyone?), and doing a plethora of team building activities (marshmallow and spaghetti towers are harder to make than you think!) Be on the lookout for these young leaders’ sustainable agriculture businesses, which will make their debut this May at the West Broad Farmer’s Market!
O – Outdoor education. In addition to the YUF program, I’m also a weekly visitor to Coile Middle School. Here I work with the Agriculture Science and Family Consumer Science teachers to get students excited about eating healthy foods. Part of the way that we build interest and enthusiasm is by engaging students in outdoor education – whether it be planting seeds and caring for seedlings in the greenhouse, gardening in the school’s raised beds, or playing plant part tag!
O – Office. The life of a FoodCorps service member isn’t always as glamorous as playing in the compost pile. We also find ourselves in and out of the office throughout the week, answering emails, writing lesson plans, attending a plethora of varied meetings, and desperately trying to organize file cabinets full of seeds.
D – Devour and Digest Delectable Dishes. This one was a stretch. But we do devour much delicious food around these parts. And before we devour it, we cook it! Rachel and I do regular taste tests with our students, in which they participate in the preparation of veggies they help to grow in their own school’s greenhouse and garden. They tell us whether they “tried it, liked it, or loved it” so we know whether it’s a recipe that they may like to see on their school lunch tray in the future. We send them home with a recipe card and hope that they decide to whip it up again!
C – Clarke Central High School. I also visit Clarke Central High School one day a week to work with the Agriculture Science Class. I engage the students in discussions and hands-on activities related to food justice, the idea that every community has a right to produce, process, distribute, access, and eat good food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, or religion. We also participate in food justice by growing and cooking up some delicious veggies ourselves!
O – Outreach and Community Engagement. Whether it’s speaking at parental advisory board meetings, helping plan an MLK day of service, or doing cooking demonstrations at community-wide events, we try to engage with our community as much as possible. We know that ultimately, us FoodCorps service members are here to serve the community of Athens, and to do so successfully means we have to know the wants and needs of our community members.
Running around. We pack in a lot of activities in any given day, which means that today I may be teaching a group of middle schoolers about plant anatomy in the morning, attending a community agriculture meeting in the early afternoon, planning a food justice lesson after lunch, and running by the High School to check on some seedlings before finishing the day off working on business plan ideas with the YUF. And indisputably, it will all be different tomorrow.
Professional Development. Books, webinars, articles, conferences, trainings, FoodCorps regional gatherings. You name it, we’ve probably done it.
Sleep. At the end of the day, I flop onto my bed exhausted and content with a full day of service, knowing that tomorrow will be chock-full of new tasks, challenges and experiences.