Cara Harbstreet's time working with Cultivate Kansas City this summer has produced a mixed yet rewarding crop of experiences and opportunities.
A graduate student in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, Harbstreet is one of 16 students taking part in internships offered through the Community Health Project, a student-run internship program at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Each intern works an average of 32 hours a week for eight weeks during the summer at a local nonprofit organization.
"I enjoy working with programs that promote knowledge about nutrition and health in the community," she says. "By providing people with fresh produce where they live, we not only increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, but we empower them to take ownership of their health.
"I also get to share my love of cooking, advocate for sustainable food systems and get my hands in the dirt, so there's a lot to love about this summer internship."
The majority of Harbstreet's time has been spent helping the Beans & Greens Program transition from being run primarily by Menorah Legacy Foundation to the stewardship of Cultivate Kansas City. Menorah Legacy Foundation has provided key organizational leadership for Beans and Greens since the program's founding in 2010, but the program has grown to include 16 farmers markets and the time has come for Cultivate Kansas City to take a larger role in the daily operation.
The main goal of the Beans & Greens Program is to provide low-income residents with local access to fresh produce to improve long-term health. The program also seeks to provide an additional revenue source for local farmers, plus offering them a strategy to help the community address poverty and hunger. Beans and Greens also aims to show how dietary changes can be driven and supported by engagement with farmers markets and locally grown food.
"What we aim to do at the farmers market is to provide education to farmers and their customers about seasonal recipes and how to utilize what's fresh in the market," she says.
As part of the transition, Harbstreet has communicated with farmers and the organizers of farmers markets to inform them about the change. She has also gathered information for emails, newsletters and social media. In the coming weeks, Harbstreet will be working with a doctoral student from KU tracking how local residents use the farmers markets on a weekly and seasonal basis.
One mild mid-July morning, Harbstreet is busy grilling up a batch of quesadillas using fresh produce from the market for a group of youngsters at a Summer Food Fest at the Juniper Gardens Farmers Market in Kansas City, Kan. The ingredients included kale, garlic, onions and carrots that were purchased at the market and were cooked on a whole wheat wrap using olive oil.
"Having the Juniper Gardens Farmers Market in the neighborhood is a great asset for that community, since many residents have limited access to fresh food," Harbstreet says. "It's a great way to shop for the week while socializing with neighbors and getting to know the farmers."
As soon as Harbstreet delivers the quesadillas to the waiting girls, the tasty treats are quickly snatched from their serving plate and eaten - a healthy snack provided to a grateful group who reward Harbstreet with a collection of hand-colored artwork straight off a nearby folding table that serves as drawing board.
"An advantage of the Juniper Gardens Farmers Market is that it is a member of the Beans & Greens Program, which provides a match for EBT (electronic benefits transfer) beneficiaries up to $25 a week to purchase fresh produce for their families. It promotes eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which in turn promotes more customers to come to the market, and that is beneficial for the farmers."
The Community Health Project interns will present their work at a luncheon on July 30 at the School of Nursing. Featured interns will present their work from noon to 1 p.m. in the School of Nursing Auditorium. All the interns will present posters in the School of Nursing Atrium before and after the luncheon.
Farm Fresh Summer Salsa