“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.”Maya Angelou
Food is more than sustenance, more than nutrition. Food provides an invitation to hear stories. It is an intersecting point for cultural debates about values and class identity. Food influences how we show up in the world and how we are seen. This multi-faceted understanding of food—one that embraces both the everyday and the profound—informs the way I see my work and fuels my excitement to join the Student Life team at OSU in the Human Services Resource Center as Food Security Programs Coordinator.
My professional background is in food service management as a registered dietitian nutritionist. I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and completed a dietetic internship there with a college support services/food service emphasis. Next, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, I managed the main kitchen, from assembling ingredients through all phases of food preparation. We mashed potatoes in an eighty quart mixer, pumped seventy gallon batches of soup in the cook-chill unit, and dry-rubbed pork butts ready for the smoker. This last task was a big deal to the pulled pork lovers in Hawkeye country! Through these experiences at a hospital serving a diverse population, I developed a passion for making quantity food and for assuring access to healthy and culturally appropriate food choices. When I arrived in Corvallis, having followed my spouse for his faculty position, I found both community and a use for my skills at Stone Soup, the local soup kitchen. There I worked in different roles including meal planning, volunteer coordinating, and as a member of the board. Stone Soup’s philosophy resonated with me: A meal for anyone in need.
My workdays here at the HSRC are varied and changing—the only constant is the great team of student staff and professional co-workers. I’m involved in meetings to build and maintain partnerships connecting the pantry to sources of food on and off campus. I receive deliveries from the Food Bank and Linn Benton Food Share and drive a van to pick up donations from community gardens. I serve as preceptor to interns and practicum students from dietetics and public health and coordinate shopping and storage at the food pantry. I help students sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (what used to be known as food stamps).
At the HSRC I aim to bring my expertise in food logistics and my commitment to food justice together to support the work of colleagues in creating and sustaining student-centered community. I hope to contribute to providing an affirming space for student voices to seek out needed resources in a manner that busts stigma and makes the request feel as natural as a haircut. In our work, we try to make receiving food assistance comfortable, and part of this role involves responding to the systems and structures that contribute to food insecurity and amplifying the voices of students saying food insecurity is a problem. In short, we need to do better. We need to emphasize the message of the buttons we hand out: “College hunger isn’t a rite of passage.”