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A Shift

By Audrey Carter, Phase II Fellow

Entering into the ninth week at Project GROWS, a sense of normalcy and familiarity is slowly washing over the feeling of being in transition. This winter, we moved to new homes, entered into “Phase II” of our time with AMI, began new jobs, and established our roles within our perspective organizations. Yet the heaviest shift I have felt in the last two months hasn’t been so much the move in location as it has been the very palpable direction of my energy in work. In Phase I most of our time was spent receiving, but now, we are in the role of giving.

In Phase I, we attended workshops and weekly lessons and spent time in the garden learning. Back then, I was a Phase I Fellow and my job was to learn, to receive information. Now, I am a Phase II Fellow and a Community Food Projects Coordinator for Project GROWS. Being a Phase I Fellow was rewarding and felt good, but this new season of putting out after recently taking in so much, while challenging, really takes the cake. Nelson Mandela said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” a quote that I love and a truth that I need reminding of often.

The last few months for me have consisted of a smattering of office tasks that are entirely new to me, such as designing fliers and managing calendars. In all honesty, I assumed I would have to push through the winter months of office work in order to get to the spring and actually start enjoying my job. I don’t enjoy spending time in front of a computer - I get achy if I sit for too long - and the list of arguments supporting my dread of this season goes on and on. And, yet, the last few months have been anything but the mundanity I anticipated. Yes, I am spending time looking at a computer, but I am also spending time being a part of a team that cares about health and works hard to serve others. I manage a wide variety tasks that are stimulating and exciting. I am assisting in a mission I believe in and being treated with respect along the way. I am creating content and receiving feedback. I get to help teach cooking classes, design class content, write press releases, garden, you name it. And it’s only just March. Before Phase II began, twelve months sounded like a lot of time. And here I am now, struggling to admit that I only have ten (No. No, thank you. Nope.) months left.

Making blender salsa with preschoolers at Let’s Eat!, Project GROWS’ free family cooking lesson series.

The good news is that those ten months are going to be valuable, fun, and challenging in all new ways. We will teach more cooking and nutrition classes, we will help bring affordable produce options to folks who receive benefits, we will run camps, we will donate food, and we will provide vegetable tastings to local schools. The best part is that I know that opportunities to serve, learn and grow that I am not even aware of yet will pop up, just like the blackberries at the Project GROWS farm. I am excited for the next ten months and for all of the blackberries, both metaphorical and real, I intend to eat right up.

Students learning how to cut up vegetables using kid-friendly crinkle cutters. This class is aimed at preschool students and their families. Once a week, we make a nutrient dense meal with families and chat about things like how to get a picky eater to try new foods, how to shop on a budget, meal planning, and more. One self-proclaimed picky eater recently tried spinach for the first time and decided she needed several hands full on her homemade flatbread pizza!

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