A Student’s Perspective: Q&A with Jill Weidman

Apr 23, 2014 No Comments by

Jill Weidman is a sophomore environmental science major at Ithaca College.  She works avidly with Ithaca Community Harvest whose goal is to bring organic and locally grown food to students and residents in the Ithaca community. Currently, Ithaca Community Harvest implements a fresh produce snack program in Beverly J. Martin Elementary School.

Q(O’Shaughnessy): Where do you work and how long have you been involved with the program?

A(Weidman): I work for Ithaca Community Harvest which is an organization underneath the village of Ithaca. We run the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program at BJM elementary. I am an intern for them and I get payed work study through the school. I’ve worked there since the start of fall semester so that would be two semesters.

 

Q: What does an average day working at the snack program look like?

A: Well, I do a few things for the snack program. We currently only run the program at BJM on Tuesdays because of funding reasons but we used to run it every day. I go in on Monday mornings and prepare the food. I do some pre-preparation so I wash some apples or whatever produce they have that day for the people who slice it and get it ready for the kids on Tuesday morning. I also pick up apples from Cornell Orchards because they donate to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. I also meet with my boss and we discuss other things that I do on my own time.

 

Q: Do you interact with the children at all?

A: Not with what I’m doing right now but when I was able to go in in the morning last semester and cut up the fruits and vegetables some of the kids would come in. They would pick up their bowl for their class and we would tell them what they had and what kind of food they were eating today.

 

Q: What were their reactions when you would tell them what they were going to eat?

A: I mean, it depended on what it was, they liked the fruits and stuff a lot but it’s been crazy. We give them like microgreens like sunflower greens and spinach and sometimes we even give them stuff like raw kale and the kids don’t know what it is but they love it! They eat the whole thing! It’s so interesting. These kids actually try new things when they are exposed to them over and over.

 

Q: The kinds of snacks are like kale, spinach, fruits and vegetables. Do you serve only fresh produce?

A: It depends on the season really. Right now, because we are barely into the growing season, we’re pretty much just serving the donated apples that have been in the cooler from Cornell Orchards and root vegetables that keep like carrots and we just ordered some broccoli. Really whenever anything is in season we have radishes, kale, peppers. Just all sorts of local, organic produce.

 

Q: Why do you serve the snacks? Did the school need more nutrition or was it just to start getting local, organic food out there?

A: Ithaca Community Harvest was founded in order to increase food equity so their entire goal was to bring fresh, organic, local fruits and vegetables to poorer and lower-income people. People who may not be exposed to it before so that’s how they thought of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program at BJM. They wanted to expose the kids, all the kids, no matter what socio economic class they were in, to this produce. They chose BJM because it is the school with the highest free lunches given out of all the schools in the area. We’re hoping to make a plan that’s applicable to more schools. So hopefully, we can spread it.

 

Q: Does the program you’re involved in also teach healthy lifestyle habits or is it just mainly food distribution?

A: We don’t really deal with exercise and things like that but it is trying to get people to change their eating habits or to make healthier choices in their homes. Another program that we did when everything was in season was the Marketbox Program. We would table in the school or at the community center when people are picking up their kids and it’s, basically, a little CSA share with all of these different fruits and vegetables. They could buy one on a sliding scale of zero to 10 dollars. That’s another way we try to get the fresh produce into people’s homes for them to try it and make it really affordable for them. It’s mostly based on donation whenever farmers have overflow.

 

Q: What about nutrition education is most important for children? Why are you trying to get the kids first?

A: My organization, as well as I, think that eating habits start young. It’s a lot harder to change your ways when you are older than it is to just keep enjoying something you’ve loved your whole life. And especially with the school, it’s an easy way to get everyone exposed to things not just the people who can afford to go to the farmer’s market on the weekends.

 

Q: Why do you think that access to healthier food options is important?

A: I think that access to healthier food options is important because I know that in more urban areas, there are problems with food deserts and stuff where people, even if they wanted to eat healthy, don’t have access to the foods.  They only can buy foods from, like, a convenience store or something because that’s all they have in their area. I think that since we are so blessed to have all of these farms and a great farmer’s market and lots of different healthy choices that it’s really important for people to realize that it’s not just for “the rich white person” who’s like going on the weekends with their little reusable bag and making healthy choices. This good and healthy food is for everyone and eating well is a huge step in feeling well and living well. I think it’s really important to kind of think about what you put in your body and go up from there.      

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