Reflecting on the Experience

2012 HGSL EM smallElizabeth Makarewicz, who has spent the last two years serving in the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) in Postville, is leaving the area this month as she relocates to Minnesota.

 

Although her presence was highly visible both years, the first year she was an AmeriCorps member and the second year she served with FoodCorps. “My role within FFI was exactly the same both years— AmeriCorps and FoodCorps simply derive their funding from different sources and provide different training and reporting. As a service member with the FFI in Postville, my role was to assist food service to procure more local and freshly prepared food, help with the kids’ garden, provide nutrition, cooking, and food systems education, and help to create a community environment that encourages active transportation (biking, walking) and physical activity within school.”

 

Reflecting on her service in Postville, Elizabeth extolled, “I consider Postville’s community garden to be one of the best, if not the best, community gardens in the region. I have learned immensely from Judy Egeland, Cici Mueller, Mary Koopman, Mary Engstrom, my garden students, and the many other community gardeners who have crossed my path. It would seem a simple thing, to turn an old baseball field into a garden space open to anyone who wants to use it, but I’ve seen some pretty incredible things happen in that space.”

 

The garden, she added, has brought out the best in many students. She noted, “I’ve seen kids with behavior issues in a traditional classroom setting change their ways and become our best workers in the garden. I’ve seen the smiles of girls, beaming with pride, as they take wagons full of fresh produce home to their families. I’ve seen self-declared veggie haters devour handfuls of sugar snap peas. I’ve seen a third grader gush with enthusiasm as he demonstrates how to properly grill zucchini to his cohorts. Within the broader context of the community garden, I’ve seen a community of people from diverse backgrounds come together to create something beautiful. ”

 

Serving with the school district and the garden, Makerewicz said, has made her service easy. She noted that the district and community are willing to branch out and try new things that will make Postville a healthier place for students to learn and grow.

 

Having learned about the program while in school at Beloit College in southern Wisconsin, she said, “I would heartily encourage others to apply to FoodCorps or AmeriCorps, especially those with a special interest in public health, farming, education, or community development. Serving with FFI the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative for the past two years was an invaluable experience for me that has helped to shape my career path . My exposure to the vibrant local food economy of NE Iowa has led me to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture.”

 

In the fall, Elizabeth will be moving to North Branch, Minnesota where she will be working with the Women’s Environmental Institute, a non-profit that brings awareness to environmental injustice, promotes organic and sustainable agriculture, and supports activism that influences public policy and brings about social change. Specifically, she will be working with WEI as an intern to help manage their vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) and organic apple orchard, to assist with trainings, and to design a special project.

 

She added, “In the winter I will likely be relocating to Minneapolis to work and take the Land Stewardship Project’s “Farm Beginnings” course. I may someday return to NE Iowa to farm and share my passion for sustainable agriculture.”

 

As she leaves the area, Elizabeth reminds area residents, both young and old, to join the growing number of people in Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties working together to create vibrant communities where the healthy choice is the easy choice. The healthy choice means that every day all people in NE Iowa have access to healthy, locally grown foods and abundant opportunities for physical activity and play.

 

She concluded, “Food and fitness is important because no matter where we are, the places where we live, learn, work and play affect our health and quality of life.

 

This effort is part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community program.

 

Source: Postville Herald, 8/14/13.

 

 

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