A Day in the Life of a Shepherd Intern: Kylie Aspegren and the Atlanta Community Foodbank

The greatest part about working for the Atlanta Community Food Bank is that every day is completely different than the day before. Forget about sitting in a cubicle, making copies or running coffee to my boss. Instead at least two or three times a week, I get the privilege of waking up before any of my housemates. I get to feel the morning sun on my skin and fresh dirt in my hands. I meet different volunteers from all over the country and teach them how to harvest different vegetables, what weeds to pick, how to mulch and water properly, how to build fences, and how to prepare produce for market or the food pantry. I take pride knowing that the produce will be going to families that normally could only afford the dollar menu for dinner.

Some days I get to visit the food pantries that receive our produce far outside the big city. I love to meet the Georgians with the thick accents who volunteer there. Without their hard work, the people in their communities would live on the equivalent of gas station food, i.e. salty snacks, candies, high sugar drinks, basically foods with empty calories. They live in food deserts, where they do not have access to nutritious foods for miles around. But it is encouraging to see the people who run the small agencies in these "deserts". They make their clients feel like valued customers and show them that they do not have to be ashamed of their situation.

Some days I get to help my supervisor set up a table at a WIC farmer's market. Women with small children and other low income families bring their food stamps and have their pick of the freshest produce in the city. It's wonderful to see children get excited over fruit or watch refugees find vegetables that remind them of home.

Some days I am working in the office at the Food Bank. I get to listen to my boss explain the food bank model: how they receive donations from grocery stores and local food drives, sort all the food in the Product Rescue Center, move the food onto a shopping floor in a 129,600 square foot warehouse, and organize over 300 agencies in 38 counties to come in and receive the product they need to serve their individual communities. From him, I get to learn about the importance of networking with those in your community, how to collaborate on big projects, how to effectively run a garden, how to effectively handle volunteers, and a plethora of information about hunger and food insecurity in the United States.

Some days the other intern and I work on our project, the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign. We make phone calls and send emails to gardeners in all 38 counties that the food bank serves. They give us the numbers of pounds of produce that they donate each week and we put those numbers into a database that gets distributed through print, radio, and online media to encourage the public to plant an abundance of crop and donate the extra harvest to their local food pantries.

Some days I get to be a volunteer at the food bank. I have sorted through countless cans and boxes of donated pantry items, checking expiration dates and re-packaging them for the floor. I have traveled with one of the food bank's truck drivers to restaurants all over the city to "rescue" food and deliver it straight to agencies. I have participated in a seminar called Hunger 101 that taught middle school students about hunger and poverty in Georgia.

Some days I get to visit senior centers with a friend of mine who is a registered dietician. I get to help her teach the seniors a cooking class that helps them make the most of the produce that they grow in their gardens. All the recipes are healthy and nutritious (and delicious!) and I enjoy being in the kitchen.

Although each day in my life as a community gardener is different, the lessons learned are planted into my mind and intertwine as they grow into skills and knowledge. I am so thankful for the vastness of my program and the wide range of opportunities that I have been given each day.