Feminist Food Utopia
It’s 5:00 AM on a Tuesday. My alarm is buzzing, and the tree outside my window is waving me good morning as it sways in the wind. I’m feeling excited, which is even a surprise to myself knowing my usual lack of energy in the mornings.
I’m pumped because it’s a pack line day at Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI). This summer, I’m interning for FFRI’s Veggie Box program, a delivery service of local and seasonal vegetables to workplaces and community centers. It’s similar to a CSA (community supported agriculture), which is a model of purchasing food from farms for an entire season. CSA shareholders pay for all of the season’s food up front, and take a shared responsibility for risks that growers might face over the season. While the financial model of Veggie Box is a bit different from traditional CSA’s, there is a shared principle of supporting local family farms through thick and thin.
I get to the FFRI warehouse by 6 AM. The organizations office and warehouse are located in the same building, Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. It’s a renovated mill building that has become home to many non-profits, artists lofts, start-ups and even a coffee shop and restaurant. And there’s still availability in the building for folks looking for new social innovation and enterprise space!
Seven other women of differing identities and herstories welcome me when I arrive at the warehouse. I often feel like I have arrived in a feminist food utopia of sorts. Ziggy, a male-identified friend, also works the pack line with us. He is a fellow ally and an integral part of this utopia of ours. He’s starting an enterprise called Fox Point Pickling Company, so keep an eye out for it as he launches this summer!
Together, all of us will all work for about 3 hours to pack hundreds of Veggie Boxes that will be delivered all around the state and southern Massachusetts later that day. The Veggie Box is a different assortment of 7-9 veggies every week that are seasonal and responsibly grown. We use pallet jacks to move the veggies from the walk-in cooler to the pack line, we use our muscles to lift boxes of produce that are damn heavy, and we use our hands to carefully pack each box so that the produce doesn’t bruise in transit.
Doing physical labor with this wonderful group of folks every week is empowering. The work setting is collaborative, egalitarian, and supportive. We jam to music while creating a product that is healthy for our bodies, for our environment, and for our economy. The veggies that go into these boxes also support many female farmers, such as Christina at Blue Skys Farm. A few weeks ago, her mint was a product in the Veggie Box, and it smelled divine. Together my fellow pack liners and I are living embodiments of both physically and intellectually strong women that are making a difference in our food system.
Working the pack line reminds me of my maternal grandmother, Cecilia, who began working the line in a macaroni factory at the age of twelve. She often told me stories of how her hands would by dyed blue by the end of the day from the glue she used to put the boxes together. My grandmother had hardly any formal education because she had to work from a young age to support her family. Despite these hardships, she went on to open a restaurant with my grandfather that is still successfully operated by my family today. Her determination, wit, and strength inspire me every day, and working the pack line has become a time for me to reflect on how her hard work has helped to create my blessed life.
When we are done packing boxes, we divvy up the leftovers among ourselves. Last week, there were leftover pickling cucumbers from Freedom Food Farm. I happily ate one as a snack at 9 AM as I began my day in the FFRI office, answering customer’s e-mails, researching future delivery sites to reach out to, and touching base with my incredible supervisors, Beth and Hannah. All the while, I felt empowered and content.
If you’re interested in supporting the Veggie Box program or volunteering with us on the pack line, check out www.farmfreshri.org/box. We would love for you to join!
October 29, 2015
October 13, 2015
September 14, 2015
September 2, 2015
August 25, 2015
Mariana is an iProv Summer Intern at the Rhode Island Center for Justice, which provides free legal services to low income Rhode Islanders in the fields of utility termination prevention, tenants’ rights, and workers’ rights. Her research is on utility termination for medically vulnerable households.
August 24, 2015