Greetings!  My name is Shannon B., and I’m the new Americorps VISTA assigned to GreenHouse17.

I grew up in Upstate NY. I moved around quite a bit through my teen years and landed in Kentucky my senior year of of high school. I got married, had kids and then went to college.  Not the typical order, but it’s what worked for me.

Fresh from a one hundred pound weight loss, I was on fire to share my secret with the world:

If you eat only healthy foods and exercise, you become fit! I re-enrolled in college in a dietetics program after a six year break because I believed the best career path for allowing me to share my success with a population and its ever expanding waistline was as a registered dietitian.

While shadowing a dietitian, I witnessed a consultation that changed the course of my life.  A woman with two children was having a consultation as part of a public assistance program. The entire time she spoke with the dietitian she did not make eye contact. She seemed to be burning with shame. Each answer she gave to questions regarding her children’s diets seemed to make that shame burn hotter. At the end of the consultation, the dietitian told the mother she would have to provide more fruit and vegetable servings and prepare fewer processed foods.

At that moment the woman made eye contact for the first time. Her eyes were burning with anger, not shame. In a very even tone the woman replied, “How do you suggest I do that? I have three children under four. I have no car. The bus stop is a mile away from my house.”

I was floored.

The dietitian did not have children, so I don’t think she understood the desperation that caused that response. A mile walk with three small children to keep out of the street while holding arm load of groceries was as feasible as this woman flying off to Paris for the weekend. That woman’s plight haunted me for weeks. Who was I to be telling people that in order to become healthy and to raise healthy children they needed to have foods that they had no means to provide?

The solution was clear.

I had to bring the food to them. I could not fix a broken food system by myself, but I knew how to grow vegetables. I had already flirted with adding a sustainable agriculture minor to my degree, so I dove in head first. I changed majors and began to equip myself for what can be described as nothing short of a life calling. I am called to provide access to healthy food to communities in need.

How does one do that? For the last few years it has looked like teaching gardening skills and healthy cooking in urban areas. Equipping people to feed themselves strengthens individuals and communities.

I look forward to building capacity at GreenHouse17 by bringing my skills, education and past experiences to their team.