Seeds sown on Mayflower Hill bear fruit in far-flung places. Just ask Robyn Wardell ’11. Wardell saw her time working in the Colby Organic Garden and volunteering in schools with Colby Cares About Kids combine to provide an epiphany:
“It was an awakening for me, seeing how food connects a lot of things I care about—social justice, the environment, health equity.”
The international studies and religious Studies major (her thesis considered food symbolism and ritual in Hinduism) found all of the above in FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps offshoot that launched as Wardell graduated. She joined the first FoodCorps class and soon was in Flint, Mich., schools. She helped build community gardens, integrated gardening into the curriculum, connected with food service staff, and gave disadvantaged kids their first experience with home-grown broccoli, green beans, and carrots. “Once they pulled it out of the ground themselves, they were not only excited to eat it themselves, but also encouraged the kids around them to try it.”
Food was a vehicle to address inequality that the students and their families faced every day, encouraging healthy diets, strengthening community organizations, and helping to empower both children and their families. “It’s more than having kids try a carrot,” Wardell said.
Her efforts got her featured in a national magazine story about food-centric activism titled “The Young Step Up.” She’s still stepping up, helping train new FoodCorps recruits and working with alumni of the program to provide them with ways to remain involved in the food cause.