Over spring break, 27 Emerson students, faculty, and staff spent their week completing service projects for communities in Boston and New Mexico as part of Emerson’s Alternative Spring Break program. This year’s program focused on food issues. Both groups in Boston and Taos, New Mexico spent the week taking a hands-on approach to farming, and food access and justice issues that they have been learning about and preparing for since last fall.
The Boston trip, led by Stephanie Miceli, participated in a variety of projects to explore the concepts of food access and justice in the local community. The group worked with the Waltham Community Farm, clearing brush and invasive species from their fields. Their food will supply produce to soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters in the area. Participants also worked at Haley House, preparing a meal for people experiencing homeless, and Campus Kitchens Project, preparing meals from food donated by University of Massachusetts Boston. Miceli explained that after cooking at the Haley House, they had the chance to interact with the people they served. The experience “truly showed us that when it comes to the homeless, there shouldn’t be an ‘us vs. them’ mentality,” she wrote in an email. “They have the same interests, hopes, and aspirations as those who have a place to go home to every night.”
The group finished the week by working with CitySprouts and World PEAS Coop. They assisted in sorting seeds and painting signs for the students in Cambridge City Schools who will use the supplies to plant gardens. While at the World PEAS Corps, the students had the opportunity to interview emergency food providers in Lowell to learn about their jobs and how they can improve the services provided by the organization.
The New Mexico trip, led by Isabel Thottam and Gabrielle Tassone, had a more field-focused experience with food issues. The group began their week at a local food pantry and farming cooperative, helping students at the Santa Fe native school break ground on their outdoor classroom project. They spent the rest of the week at Tierra Lucero, a start-up farm located in Taos. Their service included composting, weeding, preparing field beds for planting, and building a framework for a greenhouse, according to Thottam. In addition to this, they helped create an irrigation system for the Taos Charter School. Thottam said that the trip’s goal was “to giveback to a community [and] help educate their community about the importance of eating locally grown foods and being able to grown their own.” The students also wanted to learn more about food access and other food issues in general. “I think the biggest take away from the trip collectively was that most of us were unaware of where our food comes from back here in Boston, so we’ve been inspired to help Emerson Peace and Social Justice break ground on getting a garden at Emerson,” Thottam wrote in an email.
New Mexico Reflection
By Christian Bergren-Aragon
My experience in New Mexico cannot truly be compared to anything I have ever been a part of. Spending a week in a place that puts so much emphasis and love into fostering a community of caring and giving individuals really leaves you wanting to serve in every way you possible can. Our trip leaders were great at giving us a variety of service activities that helped the community of Taos and Santa Fe in significant ways. More specifically, the people that went on the trip are what made my time over Spring Break truly memorable. I not only grew as a person, but also became more educated about the issues of food and sustainability in America. I am so thankful that I had an opportunity to do something like this.
by Rachel Gordon
Over spring break, I participated in Emerson’s Alternative Spring Break, where I, along with several other students, volunteered at several organizations in and around the Boston area. All of these organizations were focused on or related to food and food access. Participating in Alternative Spring Break definitely helped me to appreciate food more. I never really thought about where the food I eat comes from or really had to struggle with having meals each day, so this trip definitely put things in perspective for me. Throughout the week, we worked at Waltham Community Farms, where we helped prepare a field for planting season, prepared meals at the soup kitchen at Haley House, prepared meals for kids at a youth center through the UMASS Boston Campus Kitchens Project, helped City Sprouts, an organization who runs gardens at local elementary schools, and visited several food pantries in Lowell. All of these opportunities were really different and provided unique perspectives on food and food access. My favorite part of the trip was all of the wonderful people we met. Everyone was extremely hardworking and it was easy to see their dedication and passion for their projects. Alternative Spring Break was really a life-changing experience. I’m glad I got to be a part of it and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who might be interested!