Volunteers of the Month: Jackie Liu, Brittany Muche, and Joey Tran

May 27, 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 roles. Learn more about volunteering here.

This month CUESA wrapped up its second hybrid distance-learning semester of Foodwise Teens, a paid job training program where teens build skills to sustain healthy lives and a healthy planet. Equipped with a supply box with herb and vegetable seeds, growing materials, and market ingredients, 37 high school students attended 10 weeks of Zoom trainings, and most of them completed a couple of work days at the Saturdays Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Our three Foodwise Teens interns Jackie Liu, Brittany Muche, and Joey Tran were integral to the semester’s success by reviewing applications, interviewing youth, and onboarding the students.

“Facilitating a youth job training program is a fine balance of being firm to teach accountability and tenderness to let youth know they are seen and cared for,” says Foodwise Teens Education Manager Flor Revolorio. “Jackie, Brittany, and Joey spent a lot of time following up by calling, emailing, and texting to ensure each student was set up for success. They offered feedback and received it. We did this for each other to create the type of community we want to participate in. Collectively, we shaped how we connected to each other, the earth, and food. Thank you, Brittany, Joey, and Jackie. You are invaluable.” Meet Jackie, Brittany, and Joey.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Jackie: My interest in food mostly originated from my time at UC Davis. I majored in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and through my time there I developed a passion and had gotten hands-on experience through interning on the campus farm and delivering surplus produce to campus for students to take for free. I’ve also volunteered at the farmers market on campus and being able to harvest, distribute, and engage with customers was highly rewarding. This feeling of gratification mainly came from being able to work and learn from people from each part of the food system.

Brittany: I come from Orange County, which doesn’t have a great food culture, so I have always been very driven to find new and healthy options in my area, even though they might not be well-known. I also really enjoy cooking, and while my skills are very limited, I am always very eager to learn new recipes and techniques in the kitchen!

Joey: My interest in food comes from my family’s cooking, especially during Chinese New Year where we cook traditional food and visit our grandparents’ house and eat with each other. During these times, we are able to share our culture and heritage through food. I love the smell of home-cooked foods, and I get to eat with family members I don’t get to see very often. Each year I look forward to these times because food is much more than nourishment; it is the thing that we communicate, express our creativity, and create memories. Sharing food with each other keeps us connected.

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t interning for CUESA?

Jackie: As a new full time Driver Trainer for the transportation system Unitrans in Davis, I teach new employees how to safely operate 40 ft. commercial buses as well as vintage London double deck buses. I’ve developed a new passion for baking, and I love being able to learn from my mom and share what I make with others. With everything going on, it’s difficult to stay focused on the bigger picture and not lose hope that things will get better. Some days are just harder than others to get things done but I’m doing my best to be present in each moment, look forward to new beginnings, and be kind to myself.

Brittany: I am a full time student at USF, and I also work part time at an after school program for elementary school aged children. In my free time, I volunteer with Rosa Parks Elementary School’s reading and writing program for first graders. I think that this current crisis has truly kicked in my need to keep myself occupied, which is why I have been really motivated to pick up new jobs and hobbies. I spent so much time alone and it affected my mental health in really negative ways, so I’ve made it my top priority to focus on the things that make me happy, like working in fields that I’m passionate about.

Joey: When I am not interning, I work on school assignments, watch YouTube, build Lego and wood building sets, or watch movies and shows with my sister. The beginning of the current crisis was really hard at first, where we all had to quarantine for some time. Not being able to speak to friends and see people I see on a regular basis was difficult for me. It affected me academically and mentally because I wasn’t used to being at home all the time, and there were some health scares in my family. But one good thing is that family is right next door, so there is instant support throughout the crisis.

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

Jackie: Now that I’ve interned with Foodwise Teens for two semesters, CUESA will always have a special place in my heart. Besides the fact that engaging with the youth is fulfilling and important to me, I appreciate every second I’ve been able to offer support and learn from the students and my team. Working closely with my Foodwise Teens team specifically has helped me grow tremendously both professionally and personally. The amount of encouragement, support, and trust that was constant throughout is honestly what helped me get through some challenges faced outside of the internship as well. Without Anisha, Flor, and other interns, I wouldn’t have been able to develop a strong sense of resilience throughout this year.

Brittany: I looked for an internship as a requirement for credits at my school, and I was so immensely excited to find this opportunity. At this internship, I had the opportunity to work in-person at the farmers markets, which was such an amazing and engaging hands-on experience being able to learn about local farming and cooking skills. Doing online school has limited my in-person interactions, and this internship has made it possible to interact with really amazing staff at CUESA as well as market vendors.

Joey: The CUESA Foodwise Teens internship aligned with what I wanted to get out in an internship, such as improving my skills like public speaking, technology skills and learn how to interact with high schoolers since I mainly interact with kids in past internships. During my internship, I learned a lot more than I expected, I got a chance to facilitate meetings, support in survey data analysis, and administrative tasks. Doing this internship is so much different than other internships I did in the past, I also get a lot of constant feedback and support in improving those skills and handling different tasks.

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

Jackie: Although I cannot always go to farmers markets, I hold them close to me because I volunteered at my school farmers market during my time at UC Davis. I appreciate that they exist as a marketplace specifically for farmers to make direct sales and build relationships with their customers. Before to college, I hadn’t really gone to the farmers market. Just going to stores created a disconnect between me and knowing where that produce came from, how it was processed, and the true value they hold. At the farmers market, all of the produce are from local farms not transported from thousands of miles away causing environment damage. The produce sold at farmers markets are also seasonal which makes it even more special.

Brittany: The farmers market community means a sense of togetherness and connection about locally grown produce and ethical means of production. The community is full of people who are open to educating others about sustainability and the benefits of healthy eating.

Joey: Even though I have not yet been to the farmers market during my internship, I loved hearing all the fun things that the students did on their market days and the conversations we had in the Zoom meetings. The farmers market community is where I can learn about different cultures, foods, and people. You support and connect with local farmers by buying fresh, produce with different colors, shapes, and tastes. It is valuable to the community because it creates trust, develops connections with local farmers. It’s a place where you can share ideas, tips and learn from each other.

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

Jackie: I really enjoy persimmons when they’re in season. I’ll usually just peel and cut them before eating, but I’ve made persimmon jam with them. To be honest, I’m terrible with meal prepping, but lately I’ve been trying to make foods that are less processed and don’t take as much time to prepare. My most recent example is making my own pesto pasta. I combine all my ingredients and will store the pesto in my fridge to eat throughout the week.

Brittany: I love gathering as many veggies as possible at the market and then going home and grilling them up and blending them into a hearty and warm soup! It’s a great way to get in your nutrients in a super easy, quick and tasty way.

Joey: I love walking around the United Nations Plaza farmers market with my family to see all the freshly grown fruits and veggies, but my favorite part is sampling the awesome foods like the free-range and local honey.