For other students who may have interest in doing a community-based learning project similar to ours, or helping to continue our nutrition initiative we have mapped out our timeline of events to display how we have gotten to where we are now, and what we have planned next.
September 2012-Begin brainstorming ideas around projects that would involve food in South Bend. We thought about the gleaning process of collecting volunteers to go pick leftover produce in nearby farmer’s fields, after finding out that there are current initiatives being done surrounding this, we decided to take a new approach to food for our project. Thinking about the large amount of perfectly good food that goes wasted every year, we thought we would get in touch with farmers at the South Bend Farmers Market and see what they were currently doing with their excess food. We also wanted to make sure that there would be need for food if we were to collect it, so we began making phone calls to local food pantries. All pantries said they would graciously accept any fresh produce donations they were to receive.
October 2012-Thinking that our project would be centered around food redistribution to people in need from the excess food from the local farmers market, we decided to get in touch with the farmers market and begin interviews to see if there was actual excess food being wasted by farmers that were unable to sell all of their goods at the market. Making connections with the president of the South Bend Farmers Market we first had to share our proposal with him to receive approval to conduct interviews with the various farmers. This took slightly longer than intended because of the limited times he was in his office and the initial concern that we would be soliciting the farmers. After about two weeks we finally heard back and were able to conduct the interviews.
November 2012-Conducting our interviews at the farmers market with four different farmers we were able to find out a lot about what is done with the excess produce that they bring to market. Many of the farmers already donate their excess produce, without receiving any tax deduction, but because they can, and most of these donations are taken to the Catholic Worker House in South Bend. Of course this finding put a large wrinkle into our community-based learning initiative because we thought we could be the ones to direct these excess goods to be donated, but the farmers seemed to already be doing this. One of the farmers we interviewed happened to make a comment that stood out to us however. Through the interview we learned that the farmers market accept SNAP benefits, yet this farmer said that many people living in poverty do not stop at his stall in the farmers market because they do not know the produce that he is selling. Furthermore, he uses this as his rationale to not donate his excess. Thinking that people in poverty do not know what some of the more obscure produce are, he reasoned that his produce should not be donated because it would go to waste at the food pantries instead. Interestingly, the produce he was talking about were ones that none of us had ever heard of or eaten ourselves. This, then, sparked a new idea for our project – to create a recipe pamphlet including how to cook some of the more obscure produce found at the farmers market, as well as provide nutritional facts to create incentive for purchasing such produce. We also include pricing in the pamphlet to show that it can be as easy and cheap to buy fresh produce rather than processed foods that are not healthy for consumption. Presenting in class we were able to actually cook these 3 recipes and show the class how simple and inexpensive it is to cook using fresh produce, and have food still taste delicious.
Here is the powerpoint we presented to our class: Nutrition and Poverty Powerpoint
December 2012-As we have had many turns in our project plans, going from the idea of redistribution of foods to those in need, to now sharing knowledge about eating healthy and inexpensively we have worked to construct our pamphlet in the month of December. We have also continued our relationship with the local farmers market, which is important to do so that they will help us to share our pamphlet when we have it printed out and ready to be handed out. But this is only the beginning of the project, so though we have laid the ground work, we still have more that we plan to do with this recipe pamphlet.
Future plans– We want to take our food and nutrition initiative to the next step and have brainstormed a few ideas that would guide us in our desire to promote healthy eating. These are some of our many ideas:
-In perusing through numerous recipes, we’ve noticed that many require various spices that these families may not have in their kitchen. Attaching small packets of prepackaged spices with the recipe pamphlets distributed at the Farmers’ Market would provide low income families with all the spices needed to cook that specific dish and reduce the stress associated with healthy dining.
– We are interested in visiting supermarkets in the South Bend area to see what they are doing with their leftover produce and gauge the necessity for food recovery programs.
– It would be interesting to visit nearby farms to converse with farmers regarding the food recovery and gleaning initiative and what they do to their produce after the harvest.
– We believe that by educating children about the benefits of nutrition and healthy dining, that knowledge will carry into the home and the family dinner table. We propose to create a “traveling show” where we teach children about various unusual vegetables, their benefits and creative ways to use them for lunch or dinner.
– With the opening of the Kroc Center, it would be beneficial to host a nutrition class where anyone can learn how to cook simple and delicious dishes for the family.
We look forward to continuing this project into next semester and would love if there are other students who also might have interest in working with us on our initiative to spread awareness about nutrition and the benefits of eating fresh produce. If interested please feel free to contact us!