July, the penultimate in my VISTA year has been an absolute delight. Regarding my last blog post, I tried my first peach cobbler in South Carolina. A friend had me over to her Grandma Ada’s for Sunday dinner, we had cobbler for dessert. I can now say that southern peach cobbler can’t be beat.

As I reflect on my time as a VISTA, I think of the experience in two parts, February being the hinge point. I really hit my stride with HCFM around that time, finding my niche and honing the skills I had been developing over the six previous months.  

I think working on the Seed to Table program is largely responsible for that change, because I could see the potential my work had to make a difference in the community. Showing kids the importance of eating healthy, knowing where their food comes from, and even growing their own food is in large part the reason I came to Spartanburg in the first place.

Last spring while browsing service opportunities across the country, I sought out HCFM because I believed in their mission: “to increase the supply, demand, and access to healthy, local food.” The Seed to Table program is truest to the ‘access’ clause of the mission statement, along with our double SNAP program.

To me the double SNAP program is a top-down approach to increasing access. It incentivizes welfare recipients to eat healthy by rendering local produce more affordable. The benefits of this program are clear, concrete, and financial. In order to fully address equal access we need to go one step further in educating children.

The Seed to Table program captures this need. A bottom-up approach, it fosters a comfortability with farm fresh food and familiarity with the processes behind it, something that many children who fuss about vegetables don’t see.

Starting with our community’s children, HCFM hopes to instill in kids the desire to eat healthy early on. This is critical since experts suggest that eating habits are developed within the first 10-15 years of a person’s life.

When kids don’t eat healthy they will not have the nourishment to be engaged and focused while in school, and are at risk of developing an array of health problems later in life. These include obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure to name a few.

Seed to Table can help kids avoid these risks, leading to positive health outcomes down the line. Physical and mental fitness are attributed to proper nourishment through life. Immediate outcomes too, like keeping kids out of the doctor’s office and sustaining them with energy in the classroom can be realized through this program as well.

That said, the full impact of Seed to Table may be more difficult to track than SNAP dollars or demographic data. To gauge the success of this program we are counting on feedback from children, parents, teachers, and administrators.

My time as a VISTA has come to a close, and I am ready to pass along ongoing projects to Jasmine Guest, HCFM’s next VISTA. I hope to see the programs I’ve started flourish over the next two years of HCFM’s VISTA contract, including Seed to Table, market surveys, and the Master Gardener volunteer partnership.

To everyone who has made my experience in Spartanburg truly special, I thank you.