Cali2Phily: My intro to food deserts…

This concept was one I wasn’t familiar with until I moved to Philadelphia to start my assignment. Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. This has become a big problem because the local corner stores provide a wealth of processed, sugar, and fat laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic.

A little history lesson: The Food Trust (TFT) was developed in 1992 with the mission to, “Ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions. Working with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers, we’ve developed a comprehensive approach to improved food access that combines nutrition education and greater availability of affordable, healthy food”. The work continues: 20+ Farmers Markets across the city. A healthy Corner Store Initiative to increase capacity to carry healthy foods and offering owners skills to make these changes profitable. In the schools they provide nutrition educators, youth leadership and farm to school specialists to teach the importance of good nutrition and physical activity to children, all while empowering the youth to take the lead. They have encouraged growth of supermarket development in the underserved communities with the support of larger initiatives. 30+ Night Markets, a roving street food festival, that takes place in different neighborhoods around Philly, with over 625,000 people celebrating the city’s incredible culinary scene and communities. Partnering with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, TFT launched the Philly Food Bucks Incentive program that encourages SNAP (food stamp) recipients to use their benefits to purchase fresh, local ingredients at participating farmer markets throughout the state. TFT partners with hospitals, health systems, clinicians, insurers and medical students in an effort to link primary care to public health which increases peoples access resources that they may not have had. Lastly, TFT and its partners advocate for policy change at all levels: institutional, city, state and federal. Can you believe, just over 100 people are responsible for all of this?

Cherry St. Pier, this market debuted July 13, 2019

My first few weeks were spent learning, in more detail, about these amazing changes that have been brought to the city of Philadelphia and the people behind the hard work. After asking questions, learning and reflecting, it was time to repeat… I have been tasked to uncover a “professional development (pd) wish list”. I was able to compile a long list that had a very common theme: Management 101 because there has been a lot of promotion, recently, without a framework for proper training. The other is Development, not just for themselves but how do they support the development of their teams.

During one of my 1:1 meeting with my TFT supervisor, we were going over my goals and objectives for the next 6 months, pretty standard. Then she asked me, “What are your fears?” I was silent. Then I got a little emotional and said, “I’m afraid I won’t bring value”. I hadn’t realized that was how I was feeling until I was asked. She was great, she said, “You are here, that’s value. Your experience is value.” Three weeks have passed since then, and I’ve had to replay that conversation more than once. One of the PD topics they are requesting is around Management, if you know me, I’m not a manager and I have little experience creating development. I’ve always been a facilitator. Becoming aware of my self-doubt again, I pull out my GSK resources and start taking classes on Management. My mindset quickly changed and I have started to build a few PD’s that are close to being ready for feedback.

I have officially finished my 6th week and feel so different then the day I arrived. I started off excited, confident and exhilarated. I then became confused, unsure and exhausted, but I can honestly say that I am heading back up that roller coaster determined and motivated. I may not be out front making a difference, like a TFT employee, but I’m behind the scenes hoping to strengthen the foundation.

Stay tuned, Next time, I will be sharing my introduction to middle school kids.