Works and Days

Sara Post, Zenger Farms Intern

Each point represents the address of a Food Scout participant. Colors groups addresses by zip code, and the black arrow points to the site of Lents Farmers Market

While half the work of running a youth education booth—called Food Scouts-- at Lents International Farmers Market is the improvisation of wacky games, the underlying other half of the work is data compilation. Because the program relies, somewhat begrudgingly, on funding from Whole Foods, it is my job to take note of participant numbers as well as their demographic each week. For example, I've now signed up 206 kids between the ages of 5 and 12, but we are still 94 short of the 300 goal. On July 28th, 15 new kids joined, but on July 21st, there were 24 new scouts. I might look at geographical outreach the week before (did I post fliers in neighboring communities close by? Did I post fliers in wealthy neighborhoods that already sustain flourishing markets?) and compare this outreach using map points with the home addresses that the parent/guardians of the Food Scouts share with me.

 The map shows that the majority of families visit from neighborhoods near the market. What the map does not show is the amazing diversity in socioeconomic position or it family world region of origin. While I have chosen to not, on principle, ask kids or their guardians about their ethnicities, I can easily observe that at least half of the families do not speak English as a first language. Reading through last names of the scouts, Russian names are dominant, followed by Spanish, Korean, and a smattering of others. Based on the high proportion of market goers who pay for produce with Food Stamps (government subsidized money allotted to low income individuals to be spent solely on food purchase), it is possible to see, sans statistics, the diversity of wealth as well.

 Such is the fascination of working at an international market in a low-income neighborhood. Social analysis of what on the surface presents as good plain fun with plants reveals a great deal of potential work that I can do simultaneously: connect international communities with each other through the children, dismantle stereotypes that 'poor people don't eat healthy' (at times extremified damagingly as: poor people don't know how to eat healthy) and, on a personal level, construct creative ways to bring these lessons back to communities that I do or will participate in elsewhere during my life.

 Many thanks again to the Reed Internship Advantage program for funding this internship. Stay tuned: this week I've constructed a scavenger hunt, and next week we're making botanical cyanotypes.

Tags: internship advantage, Zenger Farms, youth education, farmer’s market, low income nutrition