My Experience With the Food Justice Corps

IMG_20150915_112900Over the course of the past year I had the opportunity to intern with Hudson Valley Food Justice Corps. At first, admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive about what this would entail­ — the people I’d meet and what I’d be doing. However, as our time together progressed I began to feel a sense of community, as we not only discussed worldly issues, but did hand-s­on work like gardening and composting. I think that things that I learned which pertained to me­ good dietary choices, gardening techniques and so on were very useful, as I was previously rather accustomed to the dietary choices of a nineteen­-year old­ — microwavable anything, and energy drinks with ingredient names comprised of twenty random syllables, starting with “x”, that vaguely sound like chemical warfare agents. Such a diet is easy, requires no effort and offers a momentary energy burst that will help me write a paragraph or two and promptly crash. It wasn’t until I started with this group that I learned the lasting value of healthier organic foods, which can help one perform better throughout an entire day, rather than an hour. And not only that, but these foods are affordable given the space, time, and energy to grow them. I learned that vegetables that look and sound like they’d be gross may very well not be, and this in and of itself seems like a valid enough reason to have spent my time in the group.

However, I think that I learned the most through people I met. I had the pleasure to work with and learn from Will Summers and Lori Hylton, the group leaders, as well as Luke, Alec, Francesca, and Ellis. In addition to being pleasant people who were fun to work alongside, I feel that everyone contributed substantially to the dynamic of the group. Also, I feel that I learned a lot from people that I met on our overnight trip to Liberty, NY. We met with disenfranchised people, such as an immigrant who escaped gang violence in El Salvador with her child. She works at Hudson Valley Foie Gras duck farm, whose owner requires her to work four hour shifts, with four hour breaks for the entire day. Furthermore, since he legally owns the small trailer she lives in, he can unlock the door at any time to demand unpaid favors. Although deprived of required R.E.M. sleep and a decent standard of living, she told her story with such audacity that I was left speechless. We also learned about the lack of access to affordable, healthy foods in urban communities caused by wealth and opportunity inequality. Sadly, people born living in abject poverty are still forced into bad eating habits and poor standards of living because they are expected to create their own jobs out of thin air in jobless communities as silver spoon hedge fund managers spend the equivalent of their yearly salaries to replace tires on their Bugatti’s.

Some of what I learned during the time I spent with Hudson Valley Food Justice Corps, I had already had a rudimentary grasp on, but the information I learned not only fortified my awareness but gave me new ways to think about things. I believe that the things I learned empirically, through meeting plenty of amazing people, was the most fulfilling part of the trip, as well as the most compelling reason to continue learning about information I could have only obtained through the people I met while interning. I would like to thank the Session, Youth Group Leaders, and congregation of FPCY for giving me this opportunity.

~Patrick Burns IV