My college career has been geared towards obtaining a degree in Psychology and a minor in Biology. My academic pursuits have sparked an interest in working in the realm of sustainability and agriculture, leading me to apply as a community fellow for the Sustainable Living Center at the Walla Walla Community College and the Walla Walla Valley Farm to School program.
We have been working with the goal to promote education about healthy eating and ignite support for sustainable food production within the local community. Many members of the Walla Walla community are choosing to consume fast food rather than cooking at home due to perceived time and financial constraints. In 2017, a study was published indicating that poor diet accounted for 1 in 5 adult deaths. We hope to demonstrate to families that eating healthy can be relatively inexpensive and cooking can be both efficient and pleasurable. We also aim to provide an understanding of preparing meals using local produce and show people how great it can taste.
In order to accomplish this, I have worked extensively on preparing for a total of six Food Focus events that are to take place in elementary schools and community centers of Walla Walla. I reach out through email, phone calls, then schedule and attend meetings with potential donors and participants. I have met with producers, community center leaders, parents, elementary school principals, and the Walla Walla Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. It has been a wonderful surprise to see how invested and passionate people are about building a healthier community in Walla Walla. People want to eat healthily and support local businesses, but many lack the resources and knowledge of how to go about it.
Our first event is on December 10th at Sharpstein Elementary School. I have arranged for local chef Chris Capps from Mealtime Market to prepare a gourmet, healthy taco bar for Sharpstein families and community members to enjoy. Local producers from Hayshaker Farm, Welcome Table Farm, Blue Mountain Seed, and Butcher Butcher have graciously donated ingredients for our event! I have also coordinated with a number of other nonprofits to help run activity tables for families to visit after they finish eating. A member Downtown Farmers’ Market will host an interactive game, members of SonBridge education center will run a table with fresh herb tastings, and the County Health Department will have a display showing the sugar content of common drinks. Coordinating with chefs, producers, nonprofits, and others has been a valuable challenge. I am excited for everything to fall into place, and to share with others what I have learned throughout the semester. I want to highlight the value of supporting local producers, eating unprocessed, healthy foods, and invite others to reflect on the importance of knowing where our food originates. Volunteers from Whitman’s Glean Team and Organic Garden Club are also assisting with running activities that show children which parts of the body specific foods benefit.
I feel both excited and nervous about our first event, as I have not yet coordinated an event of this nature before. I will put forth my best effort, learn from mistakes, and hopefully become familiar enough with event coordinating that the events will continuously improve.
Me and my Sustainable Living Center supervisor Erendira Cruz coordinating our upcoming Food Focus event at Sharpstein Elementary
Walla Walla Valley Farm to School Garden Project at Green Park Elementary
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