As staunch advocates of implementing more sustainable food practices and making healthy, locally grown food a priority, Stacey Davis ’15, Mollie Kenerson ’15 and Abbe Lentz ’15 have worked relentlessly over the past four years to further the Colleges’ commitment to sustainability and bring new initiatives to campus. Now, they’ll work to create a more sustainable food system at the national level with their recent acceptance into the FoodCorps program.
Davis, Kenerson and Lentz were selected from an impressive pool of more than 1,000 applicants to join the ranks of 182 other FoodCorps service members working in over 500 schools across the nation. The program is part of the AmeriCorps Service Network which aims to connect children to real food and help them grow up healthy as they bring real, healthy food to students at schools across the country as well as provide food and nutrition education. Their year-long service stint will begin in August when they report for their initial training.
“All three are enthusiastic and passionate, and forward thinking to the degree they’re not necessarily thinking about tomorrow, but how to build a more sustainable food system for generations down the road,” says Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Robin Lewis, who worked closely with Davis and Kenerson on various research endeavors and mentored all three of the students in her courses. “They’ve all generally taken an interest in food related issues beyond coursework and been activists on campus with initiatives like the Real Food Challenge and Sustainable Food Club – they’ve gone way beyond what most students do.”
Davis, Kenerson and Lentz will each take on different roles in the communities they have been placed, although cultivating a passion for practicing and enjoying sustainable food practices in the students they’ll be working with is something all three students say they’re hoping to achieve through their service.
Lentz says she looks forward to building strong relationships with her students, while also providing “inspiration and mentorship” to them as they become empowered through the urban farm and sustainability and nutrition education. Lentz will serve in Harlem, N.Y., where she will work with the organization Harlem Grown on their urban organic farm and hydroponic greenhouse, as well as within their partner schools to implement sustainable practices through mentorship and experiential learning.
As a sociology and environmental studies double major, Lentz says that FoodCorps combines aspects from both of her majors and incorporates her deepest passions: youth mentorship and empowerment, sustainable food systems, and community development. Lentz has worked closely with Finger Lakes Institute Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Meyer, who says that Lentz didn’t just study and read about the food system, but also “demonstrated her advocacy and sought out skills and abilities to strengthen her knowledge and understanding.”
“My experience with the Wake the Farm Alternative Spring Break program, led by Sarah Meyer, is what made me want to dedicate my future to sustainable farming and food systems,” Lentz says. “The sociology department at HWS has also had the biggest impact on the type of person I’ve become and what kind of work I want to do for the rest of my life as it has given me a critical perspective and a passion for social justice advocacy as well as community development.”
Davis, who will work with the Green Village initiative in Bridgeport, Conn., says that working with the students and developing a sense of community among her students and their families around food and food production are aspects of the program she’s excited to take part in. Davis will manage and maintain several school gardens and a farm, as well as coordinate programs for students of all ages to teach them how to grow and harvest food as well as educate them about food nutrition and the food system as a whole.
At HWS, Davis was heavily invested in a variety of sustainability efforts on campus. She has been involved with the Sustainable Foods Club, Roots and Shoots Club, and also held an internship on the HWS Fribolin Farm, was on the farm committee and conducted summer research for the FLI and the Environmental Studies Department the past two summers. She was instrumental in bringing the Real Food Challenge to campus, a campaign that provides campuses with structure and resources for serving “real food.” She is currently serving as the Finger Lakes Institute Real Food Intern, furthering the initiative to bring more real food to campus.
“My involvement with extra-curricular activities provided me with the type of experience I need to be a successful service member for FoodCorps,” says Davis. “Even though these activities did have a big influence, I also put into practice the things I learned in class, which is where I was truly inspired to pursue a job like becoming a FoodCorps service member for a year.”
Kenerson, an environmental studies and anthropology double major, is headed to Springdale, Ark., where she will work at Harp Elementary School in a community with a diverse and bilingual population. She will be responsible for facilitating educational programing in the community garden, working with the school’s cafeteria to prepare new and exciting healthy dishes and organizing community and school events that bring the children, parents and school faculty together to learn and grow in a fun and collaborative way.
“In my service term I hope to grow deeply as a person, further developing the skills necessary to make a difference in my community and inspiring future generations to do the same,” says Kenerson. “Getting the opportunity to work with elementary school children will allow me to not only teach but to empower the youth to become active agents of change, able and ready to take on food injustices both locally and globally.”
Kenerson has tackled food injustices throughout her time as an HWS student. She was involved with Sustainable Foods Club, Roots and Shoots Club, as well as a farm committee member, a volunteer at the Geneva Community Center, and student-researcher who is currently finishing up her third summer conducting research to help further sustainability efforts on campus. She completed an Honors project, “Sustainability at HWS: How can it be sustained?,” under the guidance of Lewis.
“This is an exciting and amazing new opportunity to do what I love and know that it is making a difference,” says Kenerson. “Not everyone gets to take on a job that has such a meaningful significance to our world, and I am so eternally grateful to have one. This service means reshaping our food system for the future, one freshly picked fruit or vegetable at a time.”