Guest Blog: A Week In Durham

This blog post is a guest entry by Coastal Carolina University student Jauntavia Prather, who spent her Spring Break volunteering at the Food Shuttle’s Geer Street Learning Garden in Durham. Jauntavia is “American by birth, South Carolinian by the grace of God. Lover of politics, puppies, Greek life & (extremely) sweet tea. Go Chants!”

Food insecurity....Do people just need access to grocery stores?...Can they just not afford food?...Is there a crop shortage of some sort?...What are we here for?...What are we doing?

Jauntavia Prather during her service trip to IFFS Geer Street Learning Garden
Jauntavia Prather during her service trip to IFFS Geer Street Learning Garden

All of these questions were racing through my mind on the drive up to Durham, North Carolina, with a few other students for our Alternative Spring Break trip hosted by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. What I believed food insecurity to be, and what I actually found it to be, were two completely different, totally complex ideas.

It’s day one of our trip and we meet Eliza Bordley, the Durham Urban Ag Programs Manager for IFFS. She immediately sets out to submerge us in the culture and reality of life beyond the glitz and glamour right outside of the deep, big city, tourist sector of her hometown.

Seeing is Believing

A brief walking tour of just a few blocks in East Durham quickly tells us more than we could’ve ever imagined to learn on day one. People are being stripped away from their own neighborhoods as they fall victim to gentrification, one by one. De facto segregation is present, not because of the unwillingness of different groups to mix, but instead because of the availability of resources and the presence of cultural barriers. The homeless roam around town in search of assistance and many find themselves back at the Bull City Cool Food Hub, in search of aid.

Bordley explains to our group that we will be working on setting up a new urban gardening center, at this new Geer Street location. She expresses how deeply this issue actually runs through the veins of this town. Due to citizens not having access to fresh produce and/or lacking the knowledge to know exactly how to produce their own food, this urban garden is a crucial staple that can potentially bind together this town and bring so much aid to so many in need.

Day by Day

Jauntavia Prather during her service trip to IFFS Geer Street Learning Garden
Jauntavia Prather during her service trip to IFFS Geer Street Learning Garden

Over the next few days, we build rows in the gardens, construct bean teepees, paint a shed that’ll be used as an agriculture classroom, build the entrance to the kids’ garden, and go through a small emergency food recovery project. Day by day, each one of us continues to have a growing appreciation for the availability of fresh food that we have readily available back at home, and for the people that we’ve been working with, to ensure the health and wellness for those that don’t have that blessing. We think of new ways to bring these practices back to Coastal Carolina University and of other ways to implement what we’ve been learning over break.

At the end of each work day, we find ourselves wandering around a new part of town, whether we’re sightseeing or just on a grocery run; except this time, we’re asking questions at the places such as: “Where do you think this food comes from?” “Do you think there’s a more sustainable way to do that?” “Can we compost this?”

Lessons Carry On

Throughout our stay in Durham, and our partnership with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, we were granted the opportunity to learn so much about sustainability and agricultural development. In addition to bringing some of these practices back home, some individuals have even begun to seek more information and internships regarding the matter.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle taught me more than I ever knew about food insecurity and how every single person contributes towards helping or hurting the campaign in some way, shape, or form. Whether it be the seemingly mindless act of supporting fast food chains, or unknowingly backing legislators that fight against progress.

This program is a phenomenal attribute. The education and aid it provides, is beyond measure and deserves immense recognition and I am beyond grateful to have had a small part in helping them make the world a little bit better.