Madison Matheus | DCCK & Bread for the City

This semester as a part of CSLP, I was able to provide service to not one but two organizations focused on alleviating food insecurity. The topic of food security is central to my international development concentration as a senior in SIS. I have a thirst for learning about food security under our largely politicized food system. I chose to couple my hours of community service with my current class, “Political Ecologies of Food and Agriculture” led by Professor Garrett Graddy-Lovelace for hands-­on experience with the interplay between communities and their access to fresh and nutritious food.

There is much more behind the topic of food security than food and nutrition alone. Working with DC Central Kitchen and Bread for the City taught me to observe intersection. Race, gender, socioeconomic class, culture and generation are factors that contribute to whether or not several under-served communities, individuals and families are able to access quality foods. These overlaps span across political, economic and cultural lines. The overlapping nature of these factors is causative to why the issue of food insecurity remains harder and harder to tackle nationally and worldwide. Even more so, knowledge from within communities when putting our hands together to solve food insecurity can often go unrecognized. This semester I planned to challenge myself through service to seek knowledge and hear from the voices within. To see how communities are bridging the big gaps within food insecurity, to meet an even bigger community need.

Bread for the City is a non­-profit organization providing a range of services to vulnerable people through the pillars of: dignity, respect, service and justice. DC Central Kitchen is DC’s community kitchen that uses recycled food for meal distribution to shelters and other agencies citywide. Morning and afternoon food preps in the kitchen ranged from julienning sweet peppers to assembling tarter sauce packets in large bags for distribution to DCCK agencies. Though working in the kitchen did not provide an opportunity to communicate with community members, realizing the devotion to service among DCCK kitchen staff and chefs was inspiring. I received administrative perspective working with Bread for the City. Community justice and the need to empower voices from within encouraged me to propose to my BFC coordinator, a program to break barriers within food insecurity (race, gender, culture and class) through dialogue. This is to encourage people receiving service from BFC to share their ideas, knowledge and traditions with food as ways to bolster barriers often led as a result of being a program recipient. The program has reached fruition but will become official around May.

I truly believe it is out of my experience with CSLP, that the BFC initiative and my broader perspective on food security enhanced my study this semester. Both organizations are very dear to me. I will continue to provide my service by informing others about their critical role in our communities.

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