Given the limited food budget that Jesuit Volunteers work with each month, groceries can sometimes be a contentious issue among housemates. But, as Caroline Kelly (Portland, OR ’12-13) demonstrates, it can also be a chance to explore and unpack our international food system. Read on to discover how a JV year, and Thanksgiving dinner, helped lead to a job with Whole Foods Market.
About one year ago the holidays were unfolding in Portland Morris house. We were planning meals and sharing traditions we grew up with; essentially discussing the best way to make the holidays come alive in a way that was unique to our wild Morris bunch. Of course the biggest focal point was the food. We had many discussions during our community meetings where we tried to weave together family traditions, sustainability, nutrition, justice for those who grow and harvest our food, and supporting local farms. Was it possible to wrap all of those features into one meal? Yes, it was certainly possible. Our house was located in the heart of Portland, OR, where an abundance of food options exist on almost every block. Between New Seasons and Whole Foods Market, Morris House was able to celebrate an early Christmas dinner we could feel good about. From the soil, to the harvesting hand, to shorter transport times to the cash register, and at last our table, we were able to share a meal that, for the most part, glorified how the earth intends us to eat. Food was truly a celebration during that meal. We had local ham prepared with a citrus glaze, sweet potato roast, mashed potatoes, homemade pies, and gravy made from scratch. On a cold Portland night we all arrived at the table and for over an hour took part in an amazing meal while weaving a beautiful memory into our JV year.
For me, the most uplifting part of planning this meal was that our community was in agreement that we wanted the meal to honor the earth for the nourishment it provides for us. This was a common theme in our house throughout the year; it always kept me coming back to the question, “Where is my food coming from?”. What did the earth, soil, air, rain and human heart have to invest and sacrifice for this meal sitting before me? Our community was great at regularly returning to the question, is this meal just? Of course we were not able to always buy local food that was biodynamically or organically raised, but it was always a lingering question.
My placement had the strongest influence in further shaping my food philosophy. At Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s Interfaith Food and Farms Partnership, I spent the year working in many different parts of the food justice world. By starting a community garden, attending conferences, coordinating a buying club, teaching nutrition, and many other roles, I was able to quickly learn that food is how humans interface with creation daily. If we litter our bodies with products that have been grossly manipulated into food-like substances we are sending a message to the earth that we don’t care about its well-being. To care for the earth, we must first care for our own bodies.
This developing philosophy led me to seek out a profession that would allow me to be engaged in the natural food world as often as possible. After my JV year ended I found a job working as a Marketing Specialist for Whole Foods Market in Colorado Springs, CO. It’s the perfect opportunity for me because every day I am invited to share the story of food with our customers. From fair trade to local to organic to non-GMO there is a rich and fascinating story behind each product on the shelves of Whole Foods Market. It was my experience in JVC Northwest that provided me with the skills and new knowledge to seek out and be hired for a position that invites me to learn more about where our food comes from and explain to others why it’s so important to take time to learn the story of food. Once we know the story of food we learn the story of our earth and with that comes a healthy and long-lasting relationship with the planet.