Volunteer of the Month: Zachary Berenson-Barros

November 24, 2021

CUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Most of our regular volunteer opportunities are currently on hold with the exception of farmers market, youth education and limited remote and office roles. Learn more about volunteering here.

CUESA’s youth programs Foodwise Kids and Foodwise Teens have resumed in person this semester after fully remote and hybrid versions of those programs early during the pandemic. Lucky for us, Zachary Berenson-Barros has been a regular CUESA volunteer with these programs for nearly a year. When Foodwise Teens pivoted to a hybrid model, he helped pack home delivery vegetable growing kits. This summer and fall, he’s been supporting Foodwise Kids at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and at in-school cooking classes, using his Spanish skills when needed. He shares, “I was looking for ways to engage with the community during the pandemic, and am very passionate about sustainability, food, and education, so finding CUESA was the perfect intersection!”

“Zach has been an all-star volunteer for Foodwise Kids,” says Tiffany Chung, Foodwise Kids Education Manager. “From finding creative ways to encourage students to try new fruits and vegetables to assisting first-graders in cutting up veggies and making their own tortillas from scratch for butternut squash tacos, Zach is a phenomenal volunteer that always shows up ready for any question the kids may throw his way with a smile on his face.” Meet Zachary.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Zachary: I really first started taking an active interest in cooking, nutrition, and produce when I went vegan six years ago, and now cooking is one of the main ways that I fill my life with goodness on a daily basis. Growing up, I was always a spectator in the kitchen, but I loved being surrounded by all the different smells and sounds. Food is just so intrinsically tied to life, and I think it’s important to relish every meal, whether it’s by yourself or with your community.

CUESA: Why are you choosing to volunteer with us at this time?

Zachary: I love volunteering with the Foodwise Kids program—it’s such a joy seeing the kids get excited about fruits and vegetables at the farmers market and helping them develop an active interest in what they eat. It’s so much fun teaching them how to balance flavors and experiment with new foods.

CUESA: What does the farmers market community mean to you?

Zachary: To me, the farmers market community means directly supporting and sourcing local, sustainable, organic farmers and produce, rather than funding large corporations with long-distance supply chains.

CUESA: Any favorite farmers market foods or home meal prep tips you want to share?

Zachary: I like to try and let the seasonal produce inspire me, but I always find myself picking up rainbow chard and maitake mushrooms. I’ve also been trying to play with different methods of food storage to try and keep my produce fresh without preservatives (e.g. unwashed strawberries in a sealed container, refrigerate mushrooms in a paper bag to absorb excess moisture, store green onions in a ziploc with a paper towel and the roots removed, etc.).