Volunteers of the Month: Ryan Eckles and Allison Miller

May 15, 2015

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. Learn more about volunteering and sign up here.

This month we recognize a special group of volunteers: our interns. CUESA hosts interns throughout the year in all areas of the organization. Contact Administrative, Events, and Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Mendoza at if you are interested in interning.

At noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year, you’ll hear a loud and spirited chorus of children yelling “Thank you, farmers!” from the south arcade of the Ferry Building. You can thank Foodwise Kids program interns Ryan Eckles and Allison Miller for helping to get the next generation of eaters so excited about local food. This year, Ryan, a professional cook at a few East Bay restaurants, put his love of food and infectious enthusiasm toward working with children. Ally, a recent San Francisco State graduate who studied nutrition, has been a regular CUESA volunteer at the CUESA Kitchen, Food Shed, and fundraising events, and also joined the Foodwise Kids team this semester.

“Ally and Ryan are the dynamic duo who made expanding the Foodwise Kids program a success,” says Theresa Salcedo, Foodwise Kids Program Coordinator. “We served twice as many students with their support. This semester, we served 49 classes and over 1,100 students. Each week, they taught elementary school students how to explore our farmers market and approach new fruits and vegetables with lots of humor and patience. They also excelled at sharing their skills and knowledge with fellow CUESA volunteers. Foodwise Kids truly benefitted from their tireless energy and positivity.” Meet Ryan and Ally.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Ryan: My interest in food most definitely comes from my mother and the Pacific Islander side of my family. Some of my earliest memories are of helping my mother prepare dinner, from washing lettuce and making dressing to setting the table.

Ally: My interest in food comes from studying nutrition and creating a healthy lifestyle that surrounds me with quality food options. I also love to cook for family and friends when I have the time. And, of course, the best place to get all my food is the farmers market!

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

Ryan: I am a full-time line cook for places like Tigerlily in Berkeley and The Ramen Shop in Oakland.

Ally: You can find me practicing yoga, trying new restaurants in the city that have local and sustainable menus, or enjoying the beautiful nature that surrounds the city by hiking around Bernal Hill, Mount Tam, Marin Headlands, or Eagle’s Point.

CUESA: What is your favorite part about interning with Foodwise Kids and with CUESA?

Ryan: My favorite part is helping grow the next generation of foodies! Education and exposure is so important to opening a child’s mind to the importance of eating local, sustainable, and seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Ally: My favorite part is my personal interaction with the children about the importance of knowing where our food comes from and learning about all the bountiful, locally sourced options we have. It is always a great feeling when you have successfully gotten a group of children to eat Brussels sprouts and say that they liked them!

CUESA: Do you have an insider market tip or a favorite produce item at the market right now?

Ryan: Taste testing! The best part of the farmers market is the ability to sample the produce to find the best tasting fruit or vegetable.

Ally: My favorite item at the market right now is Lonely Mountain Farm’s strawberries! They are absolutely one-of-a-kind, with their sweet and delicious flavor at the peak of their season!

This semester we say goodbye to Foodwise Kids Program and Info Booth Coordinator Theresa Salcedo, who also started as one of our rockstar volunteers. Over the last year, she helped develop and grow the Foodwise Kids program, in addition to running the Saturday Info Booth. We thank her for all of her amazing work and wish her the best!

Middle photos of Ryan and Allison by Amanda Harris.