Meet Our Team: Damaris Bonner

November 19, 2021

Last year, we started taking you “behind the mask” with each CUESA staff member. Now, we want you to meet one of the newest members of our team, Damaris Bonner, who joined us this summer as the Education Coordinator for our Foodwise Kids & Families program, which uses the farmers market as a classroom for empowering the next generation of healthy eaters. She hit the ground running to support in-person field trips and classes for our elementary school students.

Tell us a bit about you and your journey to CUESA.  

Hello everybody! My name is Damaris Bonner and I was born and raised in San Francisco. For a period of time, I was studying English and Political Science at Notre Dame de Namur University, but due to unforeseen circumstances, I’m taking a break from higher education and focusing on a meaningful career. While in college, I felt depleted from the world: I didn’t feel as though I was learning or gaining experience to do the things that I adore. I always had a passion for being within my community and working on either social justice issues and/or food systems. I had a past of working with students, food, and being on farmland, so when the opportunity arose for me to apply for a position at CUESA, I took it! And even though I have only been a part of the team since August 16 of this year, I feel as though there is so much opportunity for me to grow and navigate a career within the realms of education, food systems, and social justice. 

What does your work look like in action? 

For a basic rundown, my primary responsibility is to coordinate and schedule our local public school teachers, farmers, interns, and volunteers to attend the Foodwise Kids program. In addition, I help  facilitate school field trips to the market in which the students are taught about healthy eating habits, cooking, and where their food comes from. Our main goal is to expose students and their families to farmers markets and healthy eating. For instance, when we have field trips with students coming to the market, I get to the Ferry Building early to set up and ensure the students have a welcoming space to come to. From there, we have a full day in which the students are learning about seasonality, talking with farmers, and trying new things! Sometimes I’m online and trying to engage the students about the importance of a farmers market and trying out mystery produce. Or, I’m challenging myself to learn new materials or tools to share with the community and students. 

What inspires or motivates you about your work? Or what do you love or enjoy most?

As cliche as this may sound, it’s the little ones who motivate me. My work centers around our next generation of eaters, so it’s crucial that they learn as much as they can about healthy eating, cooking, and general food knowledge. Another thing that inspires me is the sheer happiness that radiates from students when they see their favorite produce item or their curiosity when they’re engaging with farmers. It’s a reminder to me that I’m not just trying to get kids to eat healthy, but rather, I’m encouraging them to be curious, to be critical thinkers, and to find joy with food.  

What’s a challenging part of your job, or something that you wish people understood better?

At times, it can be a bit upsetting when you work with students who have no interest in the program itself. I say this not in the sense that I take it personally, but rather, it makes me question if the material is enticing for students or if there’s something I’m lacking while trying to share this knowledge. I just have to remind myself that these are young students who are growing into their personalities and that these are experiences that they’ll hopefully remember and carry into their adulthood. 

What do you do to recharge outside of work? 

For the most part, music and a good meal is all I need. Music brings rhythm to move my body, all the while a good snack or meal will nourish my soul. If it’s not those two things, sometimes I just need to tune out the world and go into Granny mode. This means I have the Golden Girls playing in the background, my incense burning, and trying out a new recipe.

Do you have any favorite farmers market foods or tips you can share? 

Get to know the farmers and vendors, and create a meaningful connection! I feel as if society looks at these individuals as being a transaction: I give you money, you give me produce. But sometimes, the farmers want to know the people they’re selling to. For instance: even though I haven’t been with the CUESA or shopping at the Ferry Plaza for long, I feel as though the farmers and vendors have been so kind to me. I can always look forward to sharing some laughter with Tim and Christophe at K&J Orchards, chatting with the ladies at Proyecto Diaz Coffee, or getting a sweet “good morning” from Olivia as she sets up Mi Comedor.