2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Clara Falls

Internship Location: Charlottesville Food Justice Network and City Schoolyard Garden

Journal Entry #1:

My name is Clara Falls, and this summer, I will be working for the Charlottesville Food Justice Network and City Schoolyard Garden. These organizations are sister organizations and work together to increase food literacy and food security in Charlottesville. Charlottesville Food Justice Network is an overarching organization that brings together over 20 non-profits related to food security. Having a space to collaborate enables the organizations to work together and develop citywide goals to increase the effectiveness of the work of each of the groups. The sister organization of Charlottesville Food Justice Network is City Schoolyard Gardens. This organization works to influence food literacy and education in the schools of the City of Charlottesville. There are currently gardens in each of the 6 elementary schools, the middle, and the high school, and the goal of these gardens is solely educational, so food is grown, but not for monetary sale.

In this first week, we spent a long time in orientation, discussing our goals for the summer and the projects at hand. Then, we toured each of the City Schoolyard Garden gardens to gain context, and we went to a Charlottesville housing redevelopment meeting to meet key players in the community. Then on Friday, we worked in the Burnley-Moran elementary school garden with kindergarteners and first graders, mulching and picking radishes! The first week of work allowed me to gain insight into the non-profit world and the greater Charlottesville community. At UVA, I often feel like I am in a bubble and I do not really connect with the community beyond, so I have really enjoyed meeting community members and learning about the non-profit space of Charlottesville.

In this intern position, I will be working on a wide variety of projects, but my three largest projects are planning the Local Foods, Local Places 2-day workshop in July, working on an urban agriculture brief to be presented to city council, and helping with the City Schoolyard Garden annual report for fiscal year 18-19. This spring, Charlottesville received a technical assistance grant from the EPA, Local Foods, Local Places. Through this grant, federal food system specialists will come to Charlottesville for a two-day workshop and facilitate the creation of a food system action plan. My job is going to be the logistics planning of the workshops. So, I am in charge of pieces including planning the community tour, where the federal agents will be taken throughout Charlottesville to gain context of our city, the venue, food, promotions, and graphics. I have never formally planned a community event before, so I am incredibly excited to learn about the fine details of event planning. I also have not done much work with graphics, so I am looking forward to learning a little about photoshop. Along with the workshop, I will also be working on an urban agriculture brief that will provide policy recommendations to city council. Food policy and city government really interest me, in particular zoning policies and how dramatically they affect the landscape of the city, so I am excited for this work. My last main project this summer will be working on the City Schoolyard Garden annual report. I am really interested in how non-profits work and how they stay afloat financially, so I think this work will be incredibly beneficial learning experience.

To make this experience as enriching as possible, I have thought of certain goals I want to accomplish. My first goal is to be open to all of the experience and relationships that this internship brings. I have already met many influential people in the city and learned a great deal about the amazing work being done in Charlottesville, so I am looking forward to continuing to engage and open myself to it all. My second goal is to learn how to effectively plan a community event. Thirdly, I would like to gain skills in how to create policy briefs and how to make policy change at the city level. I hope to achieve each of these goals throughout this internship and gain a better understanding of the Charlottesville food system as a whole.

Journal Entry #2:

Wow, I can’t quite believe that my time at City Schoolyard Garden is already halfway over. I have really enjoyed learning the ends and outs of the Charlottesville food system and gaining insight into how to make local political change happen! So far, I have been working on two main projects: the Charlottesville Local Foods, Local Places workshop and the Food Justice Network Food Equity Initiative. 

Local Foods, Local Places is the first large scale community event that I have worked on, and the process has been about as tedious as I expected. I have really enjoyed learning the step by step practice of how to plan an event, but I did not realize how each step is so dependent on the last. For example, it took us much longer than anticipated to send out the invitations for the event, because we had to wait for all of our sponsors to be confirmed so that the sponsorship logos could be properly displayed on the bottom of the invitation. Through planning this event, I have realized the importance of reaching out for help in the community, and the importance of intensive outreach to keep the event on people’s radar.

The second main project I’m working on is the Food Equity Initiative. I briefly explained the initiative in my last blog post, but it is a report that the Charlottesville Food Justice Network is writing to be presented to city council, in hopes that the 5 main focus groups: urban agriculture, school lunches, food access points, transportation, and development, will be included in the next city budget. Through this report, I have been doing most of the research and writing, and I have enjoyed researching case studies in other cities and learning how to best showcase information to politicians. 

The first half of my internship has made me realize how slow progress moves in the public sector, but how important continuous activism is to make real change. I have really enjoyed this job, and I am excited to see what is to come in the second half! 

Journal Entry #3: 

Today was my last day working with The Charlottesville Food Justice Network and City Schoolyard Garden, and I feel so bittersweet. I’m excited for what is to come in the upcoming school year, but sad to be leaving such an amazing organization and work environment. Over the course of the last 9 weeks, I have learned so many skills and gain an equity perspective that is so much more insightful than ever before. 

In this last week, I helped finalize a grant proposal and worked on documents and materials to distribute during a healthy school lunch presentation that the City Schoolyard Garden Youth Interns gave on Thursday evening to the Charlottesville City School school board. While working on the grant application, I continued to build skills revolving around written communication and effective persuasion. Then with the healthy school food materials, I created my first infographic and worked to enhance the four main goals of the students presenting. It was really powerful to work with the Youth Intern students because of how dedicated and enthusiastic they were about food justice and advocacy. 

This internship has really enhanced my equity perspective. I have spent most of my days thinking about the systematic issues that hold certain people down, and what actions advocates can take to change this system. However, I did become frustrated by how long the change making process takes and how little is possible without big policy or cultural shifts. With this being said, this experience has made me want to do more in the policy realm on the federal and state level, to make wider and more drastic change. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Charlottesville Food Justice Network, mand this summer has truly made me an advocate for food justice and equity as a whole. Through this experience, I have widened my understanding of nonprofits and policy work, and I am excited to have this internship propel me into more advocacy and equity work in the future.