Local Food Ambassadors Gain Food Systems and Leadership Skills
The NC 10% Campaign's Local Food Ambassador Program offers year-long paid employment to student Ambassadors to organize around local food issues on their university and college campuses. The students gain direct campaign experience; new food system professional networks; and a toolbox of relevant non-profit, food movement, and grassroots organizing skills.
We checked in with a few former Ambassadors to learn what they gained from their experience.
ASHLAND TANN, ELIZABETH CITY STATE UNIVERSITY
Political Science Major, Military Science minor, CLASS OF 2018
Tell us about what you learned as a Local Food Ambassador (LFA).
One thing I learned in my professional skill set is about time management and planning and realizing that other people have just as important deadlines as you do, so it’s important to make sure that you communicate exactly what you need in a timely manner. I learned how important it was to maintain lines of communication.
What was your greatest success?
The personal growth that I had and realizing that this was something I was interested in. It was more of a personal success than anything- just noticing that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life, something I was interested in.
How has being an Ambassador helped you in finding or thinking about your career path?
Being an LFA helped me realize that I love working with food and I love the entire food process from cooking to agriculture, so I think that I didn’t know it when I first started, but that experience going to the farmers market with my mom and growing up in that southern agricultural background, it really helped me discover what I was truly interested in. I always knew I wanted to change the world, but I didn’t know how I wanted to do it and I think that this might be the way for me.
JOVIA OCHIENG, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY
Health Education Major, CLASS OF 2017
Tell us about what you learned as an Ambassador.
In the beginning of the position, I thought that it was very laid back and easy to do events on campus, but I later learned that you need to open the channels of communication and be willing to be flexible. Not shutting down when things don’t go as expected.
What do you think was your biggest success?
My biggest success was talking to students and seeing them excited and teaching them about what is local food and why we need it in our university system. Also continuing communication channel with dining staff.
Tell us about the work that you did with your internship and how you connected local food with obesity and health.
Basically, I wasn’t interested in obesity and health, and then over the summer I realized that the best way to fight obesity is through food because 80% of weight loss is food. If someone is eating healthy, the changes of reducing their obesity levels increases. So with that knowledge I was able to connect local food with obesity and health.
How has this position helped you in finding your career path or focusing on your next job?
I’ve grown a lot through this position, in leadership skills and communication skills. I know that when I’m talking to someone, I need to have a clear vision for what I want out of that meeting or what it is that I want to accomplish, so having that skill has prepared me for my future job, because when you’re working for a company, you always need to have their mission in mind and everything needs to be aligned with that and what they’re trying to do. Not necessarily what you’re trying to do or what you think is good. Next, I still hope to work for a place that looks at sustainability, and that wasn’t true earlier in the year. Earlier in the year, I wasn’t thinking about sustainability in food, I was just thinking about health, health, health. I wasn’t thinking about how does sustainability play a role in our health.
KABRINA MCAFEE, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA - PEMBROKE
Biology Major, CLASS OF 2017
Tell us about a learning experience as an Ambassador.
By being the Greener Coalition President, I learned how to be a leader and communicate well with my teammates and group members, and getting in contact with people from around my school so that they could help us do different things and help us get the word out about the local food ambassador program and the Real Food Challenge. So, I learned communication skills and also organization and teamwork skills.
What was your biggest success?
When we did the taste test event, many students came out to that and we got a lot of Greener Coalition members to help and it was really cool. We had a generic brand and then a product that came straight from the farm. It was cool seeing student’s facial expressions on the different tastes- they could tell the difference between the generic brand and the Real, from the farm food and it was really cool seeing their expressions.
How has this position helped you with your career path?
The position helped me come out of my comfort zone and connect with different people. It helped me be more open to new things and become a leader and to connect with people and not be afraid to ask for help when I needed it. Having local foods in the caf will make students healthier and my major is biology and I want to work in helping people be healthier, and have better lives, so I feel like it really helped shape my career path.
ZAKIYAA TAYLOR, NORTH CAROLINA A&T STATE UNIVERSITY
Urban & Community Horticulture Major, CLASS OF 2017
Tell us about what you learned as an Ambassador.
I learned a lot as an LFA, because when I came to A&T I didn’t really have a lot of extracurricular activities. I was in a couple of groups, but I hadn’t really applied the things that I knew and the things I was learning to anything and I really wanted to the opportunity to do that. My experience as an LFA was really invaluable in the sense that it pushed me in directions that I don’t think I would have pushed myself. I usually enjoy not talking to people. I’m actually a relatively socially anxious person, so it was pushing me out of my comfort zone and getting me to talk to more people about things that I’m passionate about and teaching people the the things that I know. I think that was an experience that helped me, excuse the plant pun but, blossom… I feel as though I can talk to people and communicate ideas a lot more thoroughly than I would be able to had I not done it.
I think that communal engagement was really important. It continued to be a theme throughout my LFA experience - just the community support and engagement from other people and the reinforcement that what you’re doing is something that’s good and something that people care about and that there were resources and people and support available at all times. That in and of itself is one of the best experiences I’ve had from being an LFA- just knowing that people are there to support you in your ideas and celebrate you when you follow them through and come together and collaborate. I think that’s the best part.
How has the position helped you in finding your career path or finding your next job?
I’m applying for grad school in Ag Education which a lot of people use in a teaching direction, but you can also use it other other applications in the industry such as advertising or marketing. I’ve noticed that through creating the magazine and trying to disseminate information to people that I’m actually really interested in the branding and marketing of agriculture itself in a way that I did not realize that I was. If I could have a job doing what I do now, but full time that would be perfect. I think it helped me streamline what I wanted to do because even though I’m getting a horticulture degree I didn’t necessarily know which direction I wanted to go with it but I think now I want to go in an agricultural writing, graphic design or marketing direction.
Check out Zakiyaa's Greens Zine at www.facebook.com/greenszine
So the position helped you explore agricultural marketing as a career path?
I don’t think I would have thought of agriculture marketing at all had I not done the LFA program.
Learn more about the Local Food Ambassador Program at nc10percent.com/lfaprogram.