I decided I wanted my community service hours for my internship to have a theme, yet with variety and also touch on one of the common wealth areas I did not explicate in my previous blog. So, I focused my community service work on foodsheds in the Amarillo area. More specifically, I explored the difference between foodsheds and food deserts by volunteering at a concessions stand, the High Plains Foodbank Warehouse, and the High Plains Foodbank Garden.
My experience at the concessions stand was an enlightening one. Although, I myself have been a concessions stand fiend as a spectator, I did not realize how many athletes we also served. I was startled to witness athletes prepare for a game by drinking a coke and eating two bags of Doritos and gummy worms.
The healthiest, most natural snack we had available for purchase were “pickles in a bag”. But, can I really blame the athletes and their parents for purchasing these snacks with no nutritional value, when their child has back to back basketball games, needs energy, and the gymnasiums are located outside of Amarillo city limits. Meaning, like a food desert, the only accessible food is available via the access to a motor vehicle. So the only readily available food is then poor in nutrients? My time at the concessions stand made me wonder who is more at fault for poor lifestyle choices in these isolated situations. How realistic, with all of the many constraints of our lives, is it to have packaged carrots and apples as a snack while on the go?
The largest difference between my time at the concessions stand and my time at the High Plains Foodbank Warehouse was that I did not directly interact with the beneficiaries of the food we were packaging. At the Foodbank Warehouse we prepared thirty five pound family boxes made of shelf stables to go out to agencies in the community and to the five counties in the Panhandle that have such little agency support that the family boxes are distributed directly to those in need. The shelf stable items are not always the healthiest; however, the idea of the family box is that the shelf stable items provided supplement a pantry and fresh produce they can afford.
The third place I volunteered, the High Plains Foodbank Garden, was very dissimilar from the High Plains Foodbank Warehouse and concessions stand. The Garden serves mainly as a classroom to teach members in the community how to grow seasonable crops and how growing your own food can be affordable, healthy, and sustainable. The produce they harvest at the Garden is also available for pick up by local agencies. My time at the Garden was a little swampy due to a storm the night before; however, the picture below is one I took earlier this year with classmates as we attended an informational session at the Garden in the fall.
Overall, my community service dealt with the accessibility of food in varying definitions of “dire situations.” Each raise similar questions regarding the quality and nutrition of the food we are providing for our citizens. I think it’s simulations like the High Plains Foodbank Garden that need to be instituted more widely in our community. We cannot alter the type of aid we provide for our citizens if our mindsets when we have the resources necessary to purchase food are to spent money on purchasing food that is not beneficial for our health. Contributing to our inability to provide adequate nutrition for our all of our citizens are the monopolies distributers have on the costs of food, the distribution of that food, and its outsourcing. In all, some tough accountability conversations need to take place in our local communities and with our representatives and agricultural corporations.
To learn more about the High Plains Food Bank and the High Plains Food Bank Garden, visit the pages below!