This past Friday, I helped out with GWComposting and their goal of reducing food waste on campus. I am passionate about encouraging individuals to take small steps in order to reduce their overall waste and think that GWComposting is a great step in achieving this goal at our University.
This past Sunday the community partners that I volunteered with was the Dumbarton Oaks Conservancy, where I volunteered for three and a half hours. The purpose of the service that we performed was working to maintain the park and prevent invasive species from taking over the land. Volunteers were tasked with removing bamboo from certain parts of the park as it was encroaching upon paths and obstructing further park views. The work that we did at Dumbarton Oaks was especially valuable to the community because we were working to maintain a public park which was long neglected by Washington, D.C. and had faced a significant decline since the park was placed under control of the National Parks Service. Providing public spaces for recreation and reflection are especially important in urban cities like D.C., where most live in apartments. Maintaining such spaces allows for residents of all income levels to appreciate the natural beauty of our city at no cost as well. While maintaining a public park is not necessarily related to food, it does tie in to the sustainability aspect of the course as we were working to preserve the land around us, as many small farmers do as well. In class, we have had a variety of different professionals come and speak to us about many different issues and industries, from the military to those at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and doing hands on service work for such a nature conservancy similarly gave me a different perspective on sustainability. After a few hours of clearing bamboo, the work that myself and other volunteers had made was substantial, and you could see a clear improvement in the park, leaving me with a great experience participating with Dumbarton Oaks Conservancy to maintain a hidden gem in Washington D.C.
This past Thursday I once again volunteered at SOME (So Others May Eat) for the breakfast shift, serving meals for the homeless and destitute population of D.C. The last time I served, I was responsible for serving coffee to the guests, but this time I worked on the line preparing meals for the 3 breakfast shifts, and preparing take away meals for those who could not come to the sit down service afterwards. Often times, I don’t eat breakfast, instead opting for a bar, coffee, or a shake in the morning, because I realize that I will be able to eat full meals later on in the day, yet for many of the individuals I served, this is their only opportunity to eat a full meal during the day. Something else that struck me about service this time was how I saw a few people dressed in professional work clothes, likely about to head to a job after they were done eating. This highlighted the real issue that is food insecurity and food deserts for many individuals who while not homeless, may have serious limitations to putting food on the table as the price of living in DC is dramatically increasing. Furthermore, for individuals on SNAP, further meal assistance such as what is offered at SOME might be necessary, as those living independently get much less than families do in benefits, and depending on the area, basic food goods can be more expensive and take up more of the weekly allotment than they should. Realizing that those other than just the homeless population of D.C. benefited from these services was a reminder of just how vital simple services like those offered at SOME really were, and reminded me of The Store at GW. While GW is a very affluent school, food insecurity still exists on our campus where we would not expect it, and the same situation applies for many of those working in D.C. Nonprofits like SOME are extremely important to the community and reflect much of the work that needs to be done on a larger scale to combat food insecurity in the District.
I volunteered this Monday at SOME (So Others May Eat) which is an organization I had volunteered with previously through an event with my high school alumni group in DC. I assisted my community partner for 3 hours serving breakfast for members of the DC community. The purpose of the service that I performed was making sure that those who came to eat with us were able to get a filling, well rounded meal in a safe and comfortable environment free of charge. I helped with serving coffee and tea throughout the morning as well as cleaning up and preparing the dining tables in between breakfast shifts. While serving food to the largely homeless community may seem like a common volunteer shift that isn’t that significant, service like this is vital because this one meal is often many people’s only meal of the day. Furthermore, the fact that we were able to provide the majority aspects of a well rounded meal, as well as a “treat” like coffee or tea with milk and sugar, makes this one meal all the more valuable. A majority of my recent volunteer experience has been more indirect, so I was happy to serve the community in this way and see my service making a direct impact. Furthermore, it made me more aware of my own eating habits and made me recognize the main issues around my diet and how similar issues may affect people of lower economic standing or privilege; I have celiac disease and am therefore allergic to gluten, and I am a vegetarian. I was unable to eat most of the food that was served, and this made me think about people with similar allergies who do not have access to food that accommodates their dietary needs - or, they might not even know about an allergy and disregard health concerns due to simply malnutrition. These are issues that I rarely see talked about when it comes to individuals with food insecurity, despite the commonality of many food allergies. However, overall, I was happy to be a part of improving someone's day at SOME, even if just for a short while, by serving them a meal.