It’s hard to imagine how I would begin to summarize my summer experience. I often hear those words from students who go abroad, and I can understand why. I never expected to say them myself, however, after a summer in Gettysburg. When I began, I knew I would have a great experience, but I never thought that living in the same community that I live in year-round could provide me with such a different and previously unrecognized perspective on life, poverty, food, sustainability, community, and kindness. Three highlights of my summer stand out in my mind, and hopefully provide a clear view of my nine week experience.
The first highlight of my summer deals with fresh produce, more specifically, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of fresh produce. Whether the produce comes from donated Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, Farmer’s Market pick-ups, or individual gardens, our refrigerator is exploding with zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and peaches. It’s intimidating, but amazing! Every meal we’ve made in the past month has included some form of local fruits or veggies. If there is one thing families in poverty or working themselves out of poverty cannot afford, it is fresh produce. Knowing that we have the opportunity to provide them with an abundance of fresh produce, therefore saving them from eating processed, sugary foods for at least one night is incredibly rewarding. During a dinner with the Circles Initiative, one little girl realized she loved fresh blueberries. She must have eaten half a quart along with her dinner. We bring fresh produce to Circles every week for members to take home, but if I could have sent home a hundred pounds of blueberries with the little girl, I would have been fully satisfied.
The next surprise highlight we had at Campus Kitchen this summer involved our volunteers. For the last several weeks, younger kids, mostly junior high boys, have been coming to the kitchen to volunteer. Many of them tag along with Ty, an 8th grader who volunteers regularly. They definitely add some excitement to the kitchen, but they’ve all been hard-working and willing to do whatever we ask. I love seeing these junior high boys suited up in aprons and hairnets. They not only learn basic cooking skills and are exposed to public serve, but it’s also two hours from their day that they aren’t on the streets or mixed up in trouble. Kim and I have talked about ways Campus Kitchen could possibly formalize a program for them – possibly offering lunch and a game of basketball after the cooking shift. Having them come in opens my eyes to possibilities for the Campus Kitchen that go beyond food.
The final highlight of my summer has been Circles. On top of being the most fun and creative meal Carter and I prepare each week (last night we had Chicken Parmesan and pasta with homemade tomato sauce, a cucumber, tomato, and basil salad, and warm butter garlic bread….yummmm), Circles continues to amaze me with the relationships it fosters and the genuine, hard-working people involved. Gia, Kirsty, and John (other Heston Interns) also attend Circles each week with Carter and I, which makes Circles something we can bond over and lets us carry our conversations and thoughts beyond the meeting. I learn something new each meeting, and they are often simple ideas that most people don’t take the time to recognize, analyze, and contemplate – healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships, forward-moving vs. moving-away motivation, hidden class rules, etc. More importantly, I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve come to know at the meetings, so I can’t imagine ending my Circles time next week. I will definitely continue going to Circles during the school year even though I will not be cooking the meals anymore.
It’s easy to ramble on about the many experiences I’ve had this summer, but on a broader note, this is what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that I want to work closely with other people once I graduate. I love joking with the employees when I do a pick-up at Sheetz, receiving a warm greeting from my buddies at the Senior Center, and getting to know the crew at Servo (who win the award for the most generous and coolest guys on campus). And I’ve learned that I would like to continue my work in public service. I can see myself scrambling around the ambiguous and exciting world of creating a sustainable community more so than sitting in an office day after day. All in all, I love what I do. My challenge now is to find a way to continue on.
Photos: A box of fresh tomatoes and basil before we made our sauce. / Me working in the kitchen with Professor JoAnne Myers. / Carter preparing peaches for the freezer.
Devan Grote
Campus Kitchen/Food Policy Council Intern