Jen Horschman, Girls Program Director
We parked our FBRA van next to a larger van wrapped in art of colorful fruits and vegetables with bold words sprawled across: Bounty and Soul. The students became curious and excited to discover what this organization does in the community and what hands-on task they were going to do to support the efforts.
A central part of our FBRA mission is building character and integrity for a lifetime of service. We believe that engaging in projects with local environmental and social community organizations creates an awareness of society’s conditions and needs in our students. They gain new insights into the people and place they call home. Service learning is a powerful part of the experiential education program at FBRA.
We walked into the warehouse, washed our hands, put on plastic gloves, and circled up in a corner ready to listen to Karla, the director of operations and Jen, Food Distribution Manager. We learned that Bounty and Soul is a non-profit organization helping to create healthy communities by connecting people to food and education. We were going to be working in their Produce to PeopleTM initiative that focuses on equitable access to nutritious, culturally relevant foods by distributing no-cost weekly pre-packaged boxes to families who experience “food insecurity.” Jen outlined our task of putting an allotment of donated produce into the 230 boxes that were to be delivered later that evening to families, many who were living in rural Latinx mobile home communities.
Our students dispersed, some to the heaps of onions, some to the barrels of acorn squash, and some to the bags of apples. These small groups started to problem solve and communicate next steps: how many items were needed, who was starting at which end of the boxes, who was the person to refill. Students were empowered to get the job done. Students were serious and worked with care not to bruise the food. They knew families with food insecurity were getting and needed these boxes later that evening. And they also knew they were not one of these families.
Service projects like working at Bounty and Soul enable our students to gain real-world experience and skills with developing strong work ethics, leadership, problem-solving, and time management; however, the deeper skills cultivated are the emotional intelligences of empathy and compassion. They realize their actions and choices affect others. Because our students are clear about our school mission and vision, they can easily internalize, accept, and advocate for organizations like Bounty and Soul. After two hours of filling food boxes they see how they were part of this organization’s mission: to connect, share and celebrate nutritious food and help create communities where everyone has the right and opportunity to eat well, be nourished and thrive.