Gap Semester students reflect on St. Louis service work
After a week in Missouri, students in Elon’s inaugural Gap Semester cohort say they have a better understanding of the U.S. food supply chain.
The first-year students worked with local non-profit organizations to learn about food sourcing, urban farming and urban food distribution.
Students worked most mornings on an urban farm to maintain the farm and harvest food. In the afternoons, the students worked on projects including packing backpacks for school children to ensure they have enough food to last through weekends, repurposing food with the Campus Kitchen program at Saint Louis University, and preparing fresh food and fulfilling requests for people with HIV/AIDS or cancer.
Over the course of the week, students saw food grown and harvested, packaged non-perishable goods, cooked fresh food, repurposed excess and close to expired food and bought food at a local farmer’s market.
As they left Missouri, the students reflected on their experience. Below are excerpts from those reflections:
“I was lucky enough to work with a very friendly and talkative woman named Francine one day while harvesting kale. When we went to the farmer’s market later in the week, one of my fellow students told me that Francine had been asking for me. I went over to see her at the City Seeds booth and she talked about how great of a time she had working with me.”
- Kelly Maxwell writes about a connection made with a client at City Seeds Urban Farm (client’s name has been changed).
“At Food Outreach our group prepared meals and filled grocery orders for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS or cancer. Food Outreach provides this food and other basics to people who might otherwise be going hungry without them. This was an important learning experience for me because I had never thought about how many things are changed for people with diseases like this. It was an eye-opening experience to see how many things in their life are made so much more difficult, on top of having to deal with the disease that they have. It is so great that an organization like Food Outreach is available to these people to take a burden off of their shoulders for food bills and let them focus on other things in their life that they have to worry about.”
- Caitlin Noll reflects on her day at Food Outreach
“I was not sure what to expect when we went to Shaw Elementary. I knew we were going to help out the students but I was not positive about how we would be helping out. When we got there and I saw the opportunity to read to the kids, I jumped right on it. As soon as we started reading, I learned how much were influencing each other’s lives. These kids may not have known it, but they were learning a lot with these books and the interactions they were having in the gardens. They were at least starting with the ideas of eating healthy, gardening, and composting. Some of which, like composting, I had not even learned about in elementary school. These little kids were influencing me in ways they had no idea. At one point a little boy came up to me and gave me a hug after we finished reading. My heart was racing and I was happier than I could remember in a long time. It made me feel really good.”
- Chris Grippo
“Overall, the diverse food-related conditions in the St. Louis area provide a platform for studying food and food-related issues in the United States. I have concluded a few things: many are hungry, many have more than enough, many are undereducated, many have the potential to make a difference. The most important lesson learned in St. Louis, however, is that food is a very powerful thing. It is a teacher, it unites unlikely neighbors, sustains many, tempts many, and brings many comfort. At its core, food is good. It is simple and good. Many are in need of this simple goodness.”
- Cat Hollister