Volunteers of the Month: Nick Guo and Jackie Liu

November 24, 2020

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

Drawn to CUESA’s inclusive farmers market community and programs, recent transplant from Minneapolis Nick Guo (shown above, far right) and UC Davis alumna Jackie Liu (shown below) signed up at the start of the 2020 to intern with Foodwise Teens, a paid job training program where teens build skills to sustain healthy lives and a healthy planet. But like so many things this year, the pandemic upended CUESA’s education programs and meant reenvisioning them. This fall, funding from the San Francisco Unified School District allowed CUESA to develop a distance learning adaptation of Foodwise Teens, where students learn and grow produce at home and join us for one safe and socially distant farmers market training day. (CUESA is currently recruiting interns to support this program in the spring 2021 semester; learn more here.)

“Jackie and Nick were both planning on interning way back in February, and we were so fortunate to have them just as excited and ready to work with us six months later,” says Foodwise Programs Coordinator Anisha Rathod. “In September 2020, we launched the first distance learning semester of Foodwise Teens and worked with 33 student participants. From calling students and checking in on how they were doing in school, to facilitating discussions about our relationships to food and the natural world, Jackie and Nick were instrumental in making the program not only possible, but also a meaningful experience for the teens.” Meet Nick and Jackie.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Nick: My family definitely instilled in me a love of food from a young age. Whether it was observing cooking techniques in the kitchen as a kid or tending to herbs and veggies in the backyard, I learned to appreciate things not just for their taste, but also for the time, care, and effort it took to make them.

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 got 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.

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

Nick: I’m an account manager for a small family-run food business. In that work, I see the stresses being put on the food system. The lengths through which people go to make sure we have food to eat are extraordinary.

Jackie: I’m currently working part-time for Unitrans as a Senior Driver Trainer and have been studying to become a LEED Green Associate. It has been challenging not being able to spend time with family and close friends. I’ve lost a lot of motivation, but I’m grateful to have CUESA and hope to finish this year strong and remember the things I’m grateful for. Other than that, I like making kombucha and using different combinations of ingredients. I hope that when I’m more comfortable leaving the house I can use seasonal ingredients from the farmers market.

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

Nick: I felt that helping to support a new distance learning model for the Foodwise Teens program was a unique opportunity. And adding a little bit of change in my week getting to work with the Foodwise Teens was really energizing, as life otherwise has felt quite stagnant.

Jackie: It’s important to provide programs for the youth especially during this time when everything is online. I like that CUESA offers programs that can get the younger generation involved in their community and learn about issues that are tied to larger problems in the world. I didn’t have these resources growing up so that’s why I wanted to become a part of Foodwise Teens specifically to experience how it is teaching the youth about the food system. I just want to be a part of an organization that’s able to serve the younger community and offer an outlet during the pandemic.

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

Nick: Every trip to the farmers market is exciting for me. Learning about different varieties and talking with farmers, being able to engage my curiosity about food, really brings me a lot of joy.

Jackie: I feel that CUESA has a very inclusive community. They really care and recognize the efforts of their volunteers and interns. Farmers markets are something that I hold close to me because I’ve volunteered at my school farmers market and would go on a weekly basis to shop and spend time with others. Having access to farmers markets has shown me how much support there is for local farmers and how essential it is to cultivate an inclusive community with open discussion of how the food gets to our plates.

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

Nick: Asian pears, Shinkos in particular, are one of my favorite fruits, so this fall has been a real treat for me!

Jackie: I really enjoy getting popcorn kernels because I can flavor them with any spice to make it sweet or savory. Being able to make my own popcorn is really fun because I was used to just putting a bag into the microwave.