Foodwise Volunteers and Interns Make an Impact Beyond the Farmers Market
January 6, 2023
At Foodwise, 2023 marks the 30th year of bringing the Bay Area community together through farmers markets and food education programs. This continued work is made possible through the generous support of hundreds of volunteers and interns, many of whom go on to pursue careers in food access and education. We got in touch with a few past volunteers and interns and asked them to share their stories of seeds planted during their experiences with Foodwise and how they are continuing to make a positive impact in our food community today.
Jacob Bindman, Chief Programs Officer, SF New Deal
In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Jacob co-founded SF New Deal, an organization dedicated to supporting small businesses and feeding people in San Francisco. Jacob started volunteering with Foodwise (then called CUESA) in his youth, supporting Market to Table cooking demos from 2006 through 2015. Since then, he has stayed connected to the Foodwise community by supporting events like Foodwise’s Summer Bash and Sunday Supper. (Read more about Jacob’s journey in Eater’s New Guard 2021.)
I think a lot of my interest in food comes through Foodwise. I started volunteering with CUESA when I was 9. I grew up spending a lot of time at the farmers market, meeting chefs, meeting farmers, having an opportunity to be really immersed in that landscape. Through relationships I made, I worked at a bunch of restaurants in the city and became really excited about the sense of community that was built around people working on our food system.
I think a core thesis of SF New Deal is being a facilitator. We’re working with small businesses, we’re working with the city, we’re working with the general public. What we’re trying to do is create synergy around what people strive to do and how we can collectively work to make San Francisco a thriving place, in which everyone is able to gain access to the resources and services that they need.
It’s not so dissimilar to how Foodwise positions itself as a facilitator between the farmers, the restaurants, and the community. I also think that the intersectional nature that food represents at Foodwise continues to be in the conversations we have when we think especially around our large-scale feeding programs. Many of those programs are geared around giving someone who is experiencing food insecurity a meal. When you’re giving someone a meal, you’re also asking, Where does this person live? Does this person have childcare or stable employment or health care? All these other things that touch food.
Delivering a meal opens that door to a conversation and opens that potential relationship up where we can provide support and resources. Food is the vehicle to a whole host of other dialogues and conversations. That’s true at SF New Deal, and it was certainly also true at Foodwise.
Renata Cauchon, Community Impact Coordinator, SFUSD Student Nutrition Services
Renata is the Community Impact Coordinator at San Francisco Unified School District’s Student Nutrition Services. She supported the Foodwise Kids program, a free food education program for SFUSD elementary school students, as an intern in 2015.
I reflect on the Foodwise Kids internship a lot. I remember one class, a third or fourth grade group. The parent of one of the students was one of the chaperones. We went out in the market, picking whatever vegetable inspires them that day. My group picked beets, and they roasted them. One kid in particular was getting not just seconds, but thirds and fourths, and he had the very picturesque, stained fingers, mouth, and face from all the beet juice.
At the end of that field trip session, the parent pulled me aside and said, “How did you get my kid to eat beets? How can I make this moment happen again?” My answer was, “I let him do it. I let him choose it, I let him cut it, I let him pick the seasoning. He was completely involved from beginning to end. That excitement just organically arrived.”
I had a very clear moment, seeing kids at the Foodwise field trip eating all these vegetables. It got me thinking about kids coming to this field trip once, maybe twice in their elementary career. But what are they eating other days? What’s available at school?
Those questions gave me the opening to find my job in the school district, in the department called Student Nutrition Services. We’re responsible for all the school meals that are served in public schools in San Francisco. Most of my work has been on this team called the Future Dining Experience, thinking about how to redesign the school meal experience for students. It’s always going to involve food, but it’s also about the cafeteria, where that food has been served and where students are enjoying the food. What does that environment feel like, and how can we make it more accessible for students?
My role has been outreach and engagement, so it’s a lot of outreach to teachers, to principals, to basically all the adults in the schools. It connects with what I did at Foodwise because I was in direct contact with teachers. I was doing some of that outreach, learning how to talk to teachers, how to respect their time. It gave me familiarity with working with teachers, and the school district.
Jiwon Jun, Senior Program Manager, Eat REAL
Jiwon is currently the Senior Program Manager for K-12 Schools at Eat REAL, guiding schools through food certification based around nutrition and sustainability. Jiwon was a Foodwise Kids intern in the spring of 2017.
My family is Korean, so I grew up with Korean food. I watched my mom make what’s now known as “fusion food,” Korean and American food that she would combine. As I got older, I felt more intrigued by all different cuisines. Food is what brings people together. When I moved out to California, I wanted to get more involved. I wanted to explore anything and everything regarding local foods.
From both volunteering and interning with Foodwise, a skill that I learned was being adaptable. What if the class is running late, or you’re with a group of students who you know are interested in something that’s a little bit different than how the program is run? I also learned that kids are also great educators. We were there to educate and teach things to students, but they taught me a lot, too.
Right now I work for a nonprofit called Eat REAL. Our mission is to support school districts to make changes to their meal program, to be there for students’ health and wellbeing, and also our planet’s wellbeing.
I got into that work because, after Foodwise Kids, I loved working with kids and started searching for a job in school food. I found a job at San Francisco Unified in their nutrition department and learned the important role that school food plays in a lot of our family’s lives. In San Francisco, more than half of the students are eligible for free and reduced meals, meaning a lot of our students depend on school meals for their nutrition. That was something that really drove me.
When I was ready to look for another position, I really wanted to stay in school food, but wasn’t sure how. I stumbled upon this nonprofit that continues to help our districts raise the bar and demonstrate what school food can and does look like. I get to work with a lot of really visionary and inspiring food service directors all across California.
Want to make a difference in your local food community in 2023? Join us at our online volunteer orientation on January 18 or learn more about internship opportunities here.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.