Kayla Gangemi | Prince George’s County Food Equity Council

CSLP is an opportunity to learn about this community, and its people. My name is Kayla, and I’m majoring in Public Health, while minoring in Spanish Language and Area Studies. Introduced to the CSLP one day during my Multicultural Health class, and the onset of my interest towards food sovereignty, I decided that CSLP would be the perfect way to apply myself, and expand the horizons of where I could learn about these topics. In coordination with my professor of Multicultural Health, I began to reach out to local organizations working with food security, and was welcomed by Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (PGCFEC). As I kept in contact with my supervisor from PGCFEC, I learned quickly about the organization (which was newly founded in 2013), their purpose and goals. I found PGCFEC to be an ideal organization for my CSLP because their focus is within the neighboring state of Maryland, rather than D.C. As a sophomore at American, as any dweller of the District may agree, the inequality that exists is deeply ­rooted. Originally from New York, I can say that I have witnessed gentrification and its effects more over time, and between cities. Pockets of inequality scatter these cities; the people here before the financial district and the Ritz ­Carlton. Food desert; two words that define those pockets of reality.

I attended one of PGCFEC’s Health Eating and Nutrition Education (HENE) work-group meetings towards the beginning of CSLP, and this was one of the more important experiences for me. Sitting around the table were individuals from the Capital Area Food Bank, EcoCity Farms, retired policy workers, members of the Council, a student from George Washington University, Social Security agents…people of many ages, places of work, and backgrounds. I gained from this experience an insight and appreciation for the dynamic of a policy ­organization like PGCFEC­­ a context that I would have never imagined myself in. Admittedly, I would have been pleasantly surprised to find myself at the Food Bank, and enthused to find myself at EcoCity. Nonetheless, with zero concept of how a policy organization typically functions, CSLP allowed me to be a part of a very unique one. I was given the task of verifying a directory of resources within PG county mostly Food Banks which will be part of a greater guide reserved for the public. Through outreach to these sites over the phone, I was able to hear hundreds of voices, and share information about PGCFEC.

Making calls and inputting information to Excel may not seem like a rewarding experience at first, and I did have doubts regarding not choosing an organization that would ask me to work on­site. However, my CSLP did allow me to maximize the full potential of learning about Multicultural Health, and develop an idea of what is important in Health Programming. Focusing on the policy ­perspective, I did realize that working on the level of an organization who engages with community members is irrefutably one of the most ideal ways to observe how an organization such as PGCFEC can be an intermediary. Completing a list of all the food banks in Prince George’s County, and learning that many of them are oriented towards those that qualify for SNAP, made me see the hundreds of resources on the list as hopes. This revelation gave me perspective, and brought my studies in Multicultural Health to a greater light. Enrolling in Multicultural Health at the start of the semester, I expected to gain knowledge of diverse health practices relative to a world of cultures. That which I was aware of subconsciously, the diversity of communities at home, is what became increasingly relevant as I completed my CSLP. I contend that these resources are hopes because they represent calls ­to ­action.

Realizing the importance of making a public resource (such as PGCFEC’s guide) as accessible and useful as possible, I decided to use a GIS (Geographic Information System) to map the directory that I had been working on for the PGCFEC. At this point, the project component of the CSLP gave me the flexibility to create another link; one between Environmental Studies, Multicultural Health, and Food Sovereignty. In tandem, I was able to learn a skill that I had been interested in since my freshman year, contribute to the fulfillment of PGCFEC’s goals, and anticipate my presentation of this project to my Multicultural Health class. Living in a city where health ­disparities are compartmentalized into Wards, it occurred to me that a map can be a simple confirmation of where not only Public Health and policy, but a range of efforts may find purpose.

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