July 24, 2013

Playing With Vegetables

by Sophie Duncan

Sophie Duncan '16 is an Impact Providence intern working for Farm Fresh Rhode Island.

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When people ask me what I do at work, I tell them I play with vegetables.  Although not all of “play” looks like the photo featured above (and much of the play is early mornings and packing boxes), I am so thrilled to read, write, eat, touch, talk, and dream about produce every day and all the time.

I am working this summer as the Impact Providence intern for Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Veggie Box Program. I like to think about Veggie Box as going grocery shopping for 1,000 people every week (or for our biweekly program, every other week). On a weekly or biweekly schedule we deliver boxes of produce to worksites, community centers, and hospitals.

For many of the people who participate in Veggie Box, this is either their first or most consistent relationship with local agriculture, and our goal is to make it a long-term one. I am involved many facets of the Veggie Box program and get to see how much hard work, patience, and creativity goes into making each box exciting.

By working on the pack line, writing the blog and newsletters (which can be found on the blog), and helping out with Veggie Box outreach in the office, I have learned from all of the amazing people I am so lucky to interact with each day.

The pack line volunteers come at 6am to help pack Veggie Boxes, which involves anything from weighing 1,000 cucumbers over the course of a shift to ensuring that each and every box has carrots. Being a part of the pack line team, I have learned so much: how to use a pallet jack, how not to use a pallet jack, and how much a small but devoted and meticulous crew can do. The piles of potatoes always seem impossibly high and somehow within four hours they disappear into the boxes.

In the office, the tremendous effort and planning directed both to Veggie Box and FFRI’s other programs have taught me how essential logistics and details are to enacting organization’s vision. Filing papers and checking people’s credit cards with care and attention matters because those people are customers and the papers are delivery routes for Veggie Box.

Sustainability is often an elusive and abstract term but here it feels more tangible. The mental and manual labor required to make more people have the opportunity for sustainable environments, communities, and lifestyles happens everyday in the office, at markets, and in the warehouse. Seeing, lifting, and touching thousands of pounds of food each week is physical evidence that this work is working.  

However, despite so much produce for so many people, food justice is still an urgent issue. As overwhelming as 1,000 Veggie Boxes are, the barriers to local, healthy food are mind-numbing. I feel so lucky to work in place where the prospects do not seem so grim because the determination to overcome these barriers is overflowing.

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