This semester I partnered with Fresh Approach, a nonprofit organization focused on expanding access to healthy produce and nutrition education through farmers’ markets, group classes, and community gardens. I was assigned to work on the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, which increases awareness of Market Match, California’s healthy food incentive program. As an Intern, I researched new organizations to contact within San Mateo County, in order to distribute Market Match coupons. I conducted email outreach to these potential partners, with the goal of expanding Fresh Approach’s network and its overall reach across the Bay Area. I also helped build out the student outreach volunteer program, which places local students at Farmers’ Markets to engage with customers and promote Market Match. I created a best practices resource guide and designed the intern orientation. Through this internship I was able to apply my past experiences and skills in outreach and marketing to a nonprofit food systems environment, gaining valuable exposure and insight. The morale and drive of the employees with whom I worked made my experience both enjoyable and educational. It was rewarding to see the impacts of my work, and be able to further the mission of an organization that is helping to break down the inequalities in our current food system.
In the United States today, nearly 50% of all American adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.¹ People of color and low-income status make up a majority of this population due to a lack of access to healthy foods.³ Our current food policies pave the way for large-scale, pesticide-infused, fossil-fuel guzzling monoculture farms, factories, and corporations to thrive financially, while their consumers’ health plummets due to environmental and human health hazards. In addition, our industrialized food system illuminates the deeper racial and class-based structural inequalities that consume United States culture. In California alone, 4.9 million people face food insecurity, despite the state producing nearly 50% of the entire nation’s fruits and vegetables. 20.6% of California residents are poverty-stricken, the highest rate of poverty in the nation, and 24.2% of California adults are obese.² Food insecurity and obesity are often associated due to lack of access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods, circling back to the overarching problem of inadequate food policies. This is a problem of both access and affordability; the former pertaining to inequalities in the distribution of grocery stores providing healthy food, and the latter in regards to governmental subsidies disproportionately given to corporate growers and food manufacturing companies. And this is where Fresh Approach comes in!
On one of the last days of my internship, I was reloading the Freshest Cargo mobile farmers market truck to end the day when a woman came up to the back on the truck and asked for just one more bunch of kale. I walked back into the truck to pull out a bunch of kale from the built-in fridge, and when I returned, she was chatting with another woman, who then also asked me for a bunch of kale. Slightly annoyed this time, I went back again and brought out some more kale. Without much thought I continued packing up the boxes of greens and crates of oranges. The women were still standing there chatting, and I quickly realized that they were trading recipes on how to best cook with kale. That moment, though small, felt like the perfect culmination of the entire semesters worth of work– two people meeting and trading knowledge over food, forming a connection and learning from each other’s’ experiences.