Volunteers of the Month: Spring Interns

May 26, 2017

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 submit an application here. You can also sign up for our next volunteer orientation on August 16, 2017 here.

Every season CUESA is fortunate to work with interns who are committed to transforming the food system by connecting urban eaters of all ages with local farmers and food producers. These individuals go above and beyond to extend our programs and work in the community. We’re so thankful for the contributions of the following spring interns:

Foodwise Kids: Erin McDonnell, Divya Pahwa, and Jiwon Jun

“I am so grateful to the spring Foodwise Kids intern team,” says Education Programs Coordinator Tessa Kappe, “who turned hundreds of kids on to the sweet, springy wonders of asparagus; developed accessible recipes for families; hand-delivered thank you cards to the farmers and volunteers that make it all possible; and even survived a few rainy days with no farmers at all! Even the trickiest of predicaments didn’t faze me as I knew this team would always find a way through.”

“Erin’s impeccable work ethic and attention to detail was beyond professional, Divya’s warm presence and joy in the kitchen classroom always kept things calm even in the wildest moments, and Jiwon continued to work on projects after accepting a job with SFUSD’s Nutrition Services mid-semester.”

“I learned how Foodwise Kids has shifted this team’s own perception of cooking, instilling confidence to prepare food simply, creatively, and recipe-free, as we encourage the kids on their own culinary adventures. It has been a pleasure to witness the friendships formed among these three and to share in that team spirit. Thank you for watching the market warm up with me from beets to blueberries, and for all you’ve devoted to growing children’s love for healthy fruits and vegetables!”

Jiwon Jun (left); It was a joy teaching and cooking with elementary school students every week alongside Erin, Divya, and Tessa. My favorite moments were when students, who were reluctant to try new fruits and vegetables, ate everything on their plates and said they couldn’t wait to share the recipe with their family. Elementary school students are insanely creative, and I learned to look at fruits and vegetables from a different perspective and come up with fun new recipes. This internship has given me the confidence to continue working in edible education. I am incredibly lucky to have been a small part of this important community program.

Divya Pahwa (middle): Interning with Foodwise Kids has been nothing short of extraordinary. I came home after each session bursting full of incredible stories to share about the students: “five of the kids ate asparagus for the first time today!”; “the group was very excited to make soup with potatoes and carrots!”; “all of them said they’re going to go home and cook more with their families!” It was such a privilege to teach the youngest members of our society that eating and cooking with healthy in-season and local produce doesn’t have to be complicated. Along with teaching the kids, I had the pleasure of working on some behind-the-scenes projects: coordinating with teachers, creating fun kid-friendly recipes, and designing farm cards to teach the students about the local farms that have presence in the market. Thank you to CUESA for this program and the three brilliant women I got to work with this year.

Erin McDonnell (right): I helped teach elementary school children about the importance of eating local, seasonal food. More important was inspiring kids to love fresh fruits and vegetables and arming them with the knowledge to prepare those foods in simple, delicious ways with their families. I loved seeing kids, who claimed to hate beets or asparagus taste those vegetables only to find out that they actually love them! One parent asked for the sautéed broccoli and carrots recipe, which her son had helped prepare, because he wanted her to make it at home. The best part was she said he usually doesn’t even like broccoli! Through this internship, I have learned so much about working with kids and the importance of introducing them to healthy foods and eating habits early in life. I have also learned a lot about local farms and the farmers market and how to shop and cook seasonally, and I have even been inspired to change the way I cook at home. The delicious recipes that kids come up with using fresh, simple ingredients from the farmers market are some of the best I’ve tried! Thanks, CUESA, for this amazing program and the opportunity to work with you all!

Culinary Programs: Kelsey Haynes and Amanda Jimenez

“Amanda is always calm and collected, no matter what is thrown at her or how much she has to figure out to get something done,” says Culinary Program Manager Carrie Sullivan. “She approached each new project or responsibility with dedication and determination. She came to us with a strong interest in the world of food sustainability, and I learned that she has a strong sense of moral values when it comes to the environment and land stewardship. I think of her as an ‘old soul,’ someone who is very mature for her age. I look forward to following her career trajectory as she graduates from college.”

Carrie adds, “Kelsey is so open and enthusiastic about learning—in terms of both new ideas and new skills. It’s so refreshing to be around her. She is a very serious and dedicated person with a very bubbly personality—a rarity, in my experience. She has really taken ownership of the responsibilities she has as an intern, applying herself quite concertedly to managing her role as a leader in the kitchen.”

Amanda Jimenez: I did mostly behind-the-scenes work that goes into the culinary events, such as Summer Celebration, Seasonal Cocktail events, and Market to Table demos. I have always been interested in food sustainability, so when I found out about CUESA, it was a dream internship come true! It was important for me to work in an environment that is so fun yet makes such a big impact on the food scene in the Bay Area. I developed my professional skills, but more importantly I was inspired to go out in my community and make change. As a recent graduate, seeing everyone so dedicated to the same cause made me feel like I can be a part of something bigger.

Kelsey Haynes: My job is to help set up and execute our Saturday Market to Table demonstrations. It’s really fun for me because no two weekends are the same. Each week I get to learn about new dishes and meet interesting chefs focused on making great food using seasonal market ingredients. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know all the market vendors and trying all the different produce and prepared foods that our market has to offer. These last few months have been so wonderful for my professional development (plus I’ve made many new friends!), and I look forward to continuing my work with CUESA.