The longer I spend at the food bank, the more difficult it is to tell someone what I do here. People look for a title or a sentence that touches on your tasks daily but I don’t have that. I find it frustrating only so far as I feel people wont understand all it is that I do and how strange a position of 10 weeks is for a huge organization like the food bank. Within the last week, I performed a vast array of “tasks” and what those are could change weekly. I went on site visits to produce markets, some of which performed better than others. We decided on a date, time, and general schedule for a food insecurity workshop I am heading up in August. I surveyed clients about what services they would like information on at the produce markets, worked in our on site pantry, and facilitated/supervised garden volunteer shifts all week as well. I challenge you to keep that job description short, sweet, and to the point.
To go into more detail, one of the produce markets we went to last week was at Redeemer Lutheran Services. This oddly enough is Jill’s church and we saw each other at the market! At our table with information on how to apply for SNAP benefits and medicare/medicaid the line of people waiting for their produce would approach, gather, or stare at a distance at what we had to offer. For the most part people were interested in sharing their experience with such services. The overwhelming majority lamented their long waits on phone calls, for some sort of response to their applications, extended deadlines from overwhelmed public service workers, and general lack of communication and knowledge about what all of this means. It is like having to do your taxes alone every time some aspect of the process is changed. “You do qualify if you have this but not if you already received that”… “Do you live with anyone? oh they don’t count, they aren’t your immediate family”…It will cover this but you need to hear back about your application first”. The ifs, and, buts, only’s, and sometimes would drive insane but there is no other option, no other avenue to pursue.
On a somewhat related note, one of my bigger projects for the summer is putting on a food insecurity workshop for the people and organizations involved in our garden and in other communities around Columbus. The goal is to discuss food insecurity, using gardening and farming as a platform for community interaction and cohesion. The garden is a great foundation to instigate education and advocacy for food insecurity because it brings people to the same level of importance. No one is doing any task more or less useful when working in a garden and it is a landscape that all experience in different ways but still, all have access. The hope is that this discussion will spur thought into what individuals and groups can do in their respective communities and circles to advocate, alleviate, or spread the knowledge of what it means to be food insecure, its history/origins, and consequences. We know that some will walk away from the workshop and perform like worker bees, spreading and proliferating the message from one bed to another and others will provide the support like water or sunlight. Any job or involvement is helpful and we hope to sprout a couple seeds of initiative and involvement through out the Columbus area.
I now find myself making metaphorical parallels to gardening as I think of ways to explain my job. I tend to many beds and plots. Some need more attention than others depending on the weather the past week, the stage of their growth and maturity. I water, I prune, I harvest, I plant. Sometimes I pollinate. Either way, in the garden, everyone involved is on the same level. We have a common baseline and we all learn by trial and error. I am pretty sure we have a 6 ft tall weed in one of the beds we never pulled out in hopes that it is a sunflower. I am still not sure if it will be one or not but it looks like something out of Jurassic Park in the midst of the delicate carrot tops. I observe and take note of its progress I every time I walk through the garden because whether it turns into a sunflower or not, it is growing at a very fast rate in a very short amount of time.