In 2011 I graduated college, found a place with FoodCorps, and moved to a small town in the Ozark mountains called Marshall, Arkansas.  As a service member, I moved to a new community, bringing with me a passion for healthy eating and a sizable helping of ideas for my new classes. My school garden turned out to be the best office any recent college grad could aspire to have, mainly because of the people that I came to know in my community. After all, passion and ideas make for poor companions without finding the people that can share them. Consider this blog post my FoodCorps Thanksgiving table.

Thanks to the teachers: the ones that took me under their wing, making sure I had what I needed to be successful in service. The ones that patiently answered my endless questions about educational standards and lesson plans. The teachers that might not have known it at the time, but they showed me how to work with kids, and are shining examples of what it means to care. Thanks to the teachers that took a chance in bringing their classes to a place without four walls, and saw just how much kids can learn from the garden.

Thanks to the administrators, staff, and community volunteers: the principal that tasted pesto for the first time to show the kids a good example, the superintendent that connected us with the resources we needed, but still had time to have a conversation. To the maintenance staff that forgave us for the stubborn dirt clinging to our student’s shoes as they walked back inside from the garden. To the secretaries that quietly run the whole show. To the community members that give so much of themselves without a thought of receiving gratitude in return.

To family and friends: the ones that thought I was crazy to embark on this journey, but supported me anyway. To my fellow service members, you taught me so much about work, food, and life. To the friends that introduced me to the wonders of my new home, and helped me smile when our corner of the world seemed bleak. To the gardeners that showed me what it means to help plants and children grow.

To FoodCorps and all our supporters, unseen and otherwise: To the staff that makes it possible for us to wake up every day with purpose, to support ourselves and pursue a year of service. To all the kindred spirits that believe that kids deserve to grow up having an enduring relationship with healthy food, and are working to make that a reality in their communities.

And, not to be forgotten, thank you to the skeptics. Every wrinkled nose, scowl, and cold stare I encountered last year taught me the importance of resilience. Most of all, thank you to the kids that made persevering through the challenges into an easy decision. Thanks to the students that gave me and the garden a chance. Thanks to the kids that chose to bravely go with me where no middle schooler had gone before, to a world of Swiss chard, raw broccoli, and zucchini fritters.

As a FoodCorps fellow I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to support this year’s cohort of Arkansas service members as they form their own connections with people in their new communities. I know first hand how important those connections can be.

To all the people that I never knew I would meet, but whom I cannot imagine my life without, thank you and happy Thanksgiving!

Annie’s + FoodCorps

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of passionate leaders who work to connect kids to real food. As a “Seed Funder,” Annie’s is enabling FoodCorps Fellows to support, guide, and mentor service members who then go out to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias.