by Morgan Medders
Sadly, this week marks the last of my yearlong term of service as an Americorps VISTA with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS). It has truly been a wonderful experience. The IFFS staff and volunteers never cease to amaze me. Even as they’ve grown to become my “IFFS family,” I am still impressed on a daily basis by their diligence, compassion, and constant enthusiasm. These people are some of the greatest I know.
The fact that it took me several weeks of working here full-time to get a grasp on what everyone does is a testament to the breadth of innovative strategies IFFS is using to combat hunger in North Carolina. Even though my world has mainly revolved around our nutrition programs, I can’t help but be proud of our other programs as well: from Backpack Buddies to field gleaning to the Culinary Job Training Program to urban agriculture and the Young Farmer Training Program to food stabilization and Catering with a Cause.
Something that stands out to me, as I look back over the course of the year, is change. And while at first these changes may seem like inconveniences, or perhaps even weaknesses, I’d argue quite the opposite. Ending hunger will not be accomplished while being stagnant. While the tons of food we redistribute each year are critical to local families who are struggling to put meals on the table, that alone is not going to solve the problem. The Food Shuttle gets this. We all will have to work together to create a just, sustainable, accessible, and healthful food system here in NC. Not only do the IFFS programs already attack a myriad of different causes and symptoms of hunger, new visions are continually being put into action. One such vision in action, the IFFS “Mobile Tastiness Machine” which is shown below.
As people become more aware of where their food comes from, how to shop for and cook a healthy well-balanced meal no matter their budget, and find alternative ways to access nutritious foods, they feel empowered. I’ve seen it firsthand in our nutrition classes. I’ve felt it myself. It’s exciting to be able to grasp the power of nutritious food that comes from the earth to feed our families. This is nothing new, but unfortunately it’s been complicated by our current food system.
Over the past couple weeks, I have been asked several times what my favorite part of working with IFFS this year has been. As my typical indecisive self, I have had trouble coming up with an answer. Apart from the amazing people whom I mentioned above (and the shenanigans in the nutrition HUB), I think it would have to be the appreciation from community members. It’s not expressed at every encounter, but there have been countless times when someone has pulled me aside, in various classes, markets and events, to express gratitude for the work being done for the community. And there hasn’t been a CJTP graduation ceremony yet that I haven’t gotten teary eyed during the graduates’ stories, which always include some form of appreciation. The mission of IFFS is important, and the work is often fun, but it would be meaningless without the community supporting and appreciating it.
There is a long way to go yet, but boy am I excited to be a part of the journey.
As long as I’m in the area, I hope to continue to volunteer with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. Hopefully I will see you soon in a class or event or out in the field. Regardless, please be in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve inserted pictures of some of my other favorite memories from my time here at the Food Shuttle.
Making pizza during a Cooking Matters for Kids class. (One of the children wrote on his end of class survey, “P.S. I want to be a chef when I grow up.”)