Cleo Corliss-Gremillion 21’ Coordinates Food Focus Events with the Sustainable Living Center and Walla Walla Valley Farm to School in Walla Walla, WA

These past several months have proven to be challenging but I am more confident in my ability to communicate effectively and successfully prepare for events. The only event we were able to execute was at Sharpstein Elementary on December 10th. This event ran smoothly with approximately 100 attendees, and I personally loved having the opportunity to work with the students, families, and community partners. The event ran for approximately 1.5 hours, beginning in the cafeteria where families were provided with a taco bar prepared by local chef and Sharpstein parent Chris Capps. The menu included smoky carnitas with pork donated by Butcher Butcher, a merlot bean salad with cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers, onions, cilantro, and a cider vinegar honey dressing, (beans from Walla Walla Organics), chipotle chickpeas with roasted garlic (chickpeas from blue mountain seed), spice dusted and roasted butternut squash (squash from Welcome Table Farm), and salsa roja with dried Basque peppers, cilantro, onion, and roasted tomato (peppers from Hayshaker farm). It was a truly incredible experience to be able to coordinate with the producers beforehand and have the ingredients come together in this wonderful meal. Chris Capps was incredibly active in creating the menu and he prepared the entire menu himself before coming to the event. While people were eating their food, I gave a short presentation to engage the audience and inform them of the work I had been doing. There was a challenge as the microphone did not work during my presentation and in a loud cafeteria, projecting my voice was quite difficult. Otherwise, those who were able to hear it gave me positive feedback. 

The most important points I brought up during my presentation included highlighting several facts and statistics related to nutrition. One point I can include here is that in 2017, a study was published indicating that poor diet accounted for 1 in 5 adult deaths. I concluded my presentation by asking the audience to reflect on their own relationships with food. I asked: What questions, concerns or comments do you have about where your food comes from or how it gets to you? What role does food marketing play in your choice of food products?

Where have you gone for fresh, healthy food? Are there local farmers markets, co-ops, or other resources you can recommend? Have you ever grown your own food, and if so, what? Families were able to take these questions and discuss their answers collectively. I am hoping this helped bring awareness and interest in food sourcing and choices. 

Afterwards, everyone was led into the gymnasium for the activities fair. In all, there were 8 activities led by community partners, Whitman volunteers, and AmeriCorps volunteers. Students received passports which they could take to each table to get a sticker for each activity they completed. The head of the Walla Walla farmers market led a table that had information about the market. There was an activity titled “Rainbow on my plate” in which students were able to make shish kebabs with different colored fruits that they could eat afterwards. There was a knife skills activity table where volunteers showed children how to cut apples safely. Members of the SonBridge community center led an herb and cream cheese tasting activity where families could mix different herbs together and taste it. Whitman volunteers taught students how to create pots from newspaper where they planted seeds. The county health department had a demonstration illustrating how much sugar is in typical drinks. Another Whitman volunteer led an activity where students guessed where different agricultural items originate from across the world. Members of the Glean team helped with running a table showing which parts of the plant you can eat. And finally, Erendira had a table with a worm composting bin where kids could get their hands dirty and learn a ton about nutrient recycling. 

This event was so rewarding because I could tell the students and their families were incredibly excited and processed tons of valuable nutritional information. I have loved working with my advisor Erendira and others at the Sustainable Living Center, and I am eager to continue working remotely by interviewing farmers over the phone and creating online blog posts that highlight their business. _________________________________________________________________________________

Experiences like Cleo’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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