Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hump Month Blog #2: Foodie?

January is Hump Month for our 2014-15 VISTAs - they are half-way through their 12-month service commitment! Every Wednesday this month, NC Campus Compact will be publishing a reflective piece written by a VISTA. In these posts, our members look back on their first 6 months and ahead to the rest of the year.

Please note: Any opinions expressed on the VISTA VIEW blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or policies of North Carolina Campus Compact, the AmeriCorps VISTA program or the Corporation for National and Community Service.

By Natasha Vos
AmeriCorps VISTA for the Campus Kitchen program at Wake Forest University

Natasha at Turkey
My friends call me a foodie. What does that even mean? A year ago I suppose my interpretation of foodie aligned well with the commonly accepted definition: “A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.” Living close to downtown Raleigh meant that I was always close to the newest and most exciting restaurants that served up unique dishes prepared with the freshest (and often local) ingredients. I considered myself a foodie because I spent much of my time and money exploring food culture, yet there was a part of me that felt a bit uncomfortable at times. While I was a student (and for some months after graduating) I worked as a bartender at a major chain hotel and I saw every day how much food went to waste. As a result, I began imagining how much food went to waste everywhere I went to eat.

Flash forward to today, halfway through my VISTA term with the Campus Kitchen program at Wake Forest University. I have moved to a new city, started working with a very different university community, and begun to unpack what food insecurity means and how it affects the larger community. The Campus Kitchen program at Wake Forest works to fight food insecurity in some of the most affected parts of Winston-Salem by partnering with several organizations to simultaneously reduce food waste. Food that has been prepared, but not served, is re-purposed into nutritional and delicious meals that are shared with our community partners. Additionally, a unique partnership with Fresh Market allows Campus Kitchen to bring fresh produce into areas of Winston-Salem designated as food deserts. Recently we have begun a partnership with the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market to glean leftover produce from farmers at the end of the weekly markets. All of this healthy and wonderful food, grown and harvested with care, goes to members of the community that struggle the most with obtaining fresh foods.

Produce from
Campus Garden
So what does all of this mean for me? Halfway through my VISTA year I am on a mission to rewrite the definition of foodie. I’m attempting to break the notion that we should only care about the final product in front of us. A true foodie should have a deep appreciation for food; where it comes from, how it was grown, who harvested it (and how they were treated), how it was prepared, and perhaps most importantly, who gets to eat it. Fresh and healthy food should not be a luxury afforded to those living in the right part of the city with the most money. If you care where the ingredients in your food come from and how they were prepared, then you should also care about where they end up.  

Food insecurity is a large concept and problem that weave together larger structural inequalities as well as local issues. There is work being done at the grassroots level as well as larger political efforts, but maybe if we, as a whole, stop thinking about food as a privilege and more as a basic right, we can shift our collective thinking. And what being a foodie means.