Reflecting on 2017

2017 has been a jam-packed, transitional year to say the least. It has been a year full of friendships, good food, deeper thoughts, education, love, and faith. I’m not great at intentionally reflecting and I often forget events. This is an attempt to purposefully look back on the year 2017 and remember major events and memories- of course there will be mentions of food! Because, well… it’s a big part of my life, in case you hadn’t noticed.

January:


I began the year in my last semester of undergrad and in true Meredith College fashion, had plenty of events with my senior class to make some of last memories together.

The semester before had been my last on a leadership team with a non-profit ran on campus. I had spent 3.5 semesters of my undergraduate career volunteering my time and guidance to helping build this program but I felt I needed to enjoy my last semester of college and experience new things. It definitely wasn’t an easy choice to give up my involvement with the organization. If you know me, you know that I put the weight of the world on myself when it comes to serving others or tackling an issue. The true status of the world (hunger, prevalence of overweight, obesity, malnourishment, enormous amounts of waste being generated, the shortage of water, the rising age of farmers, and a rapidly growing population) is daunting and compels me to act, but I am always overwhelmed knowing my small acts are not making the huge differences that need to take place. So yes, this was not an easy choice but a necessary one. This also gave me more time to volunteer my time in another way in the food and nutrition world!

I taught my first Cooking Matters class, this time for parents of children in the North Carolina Head Start program. If you haven’t been exposed to the Cooking Matters curriculum in some way, either as an educator or as a participant, I encourage you to do so. Each week introduces a new topic, building on participant’s knowledge of how to buy and prepare budget-friendly, healthy meals. Each CM class is different, but this one was especially due to the fact that almost all the participants were spanish-speaking mothers, most of whom did not speak fluent English. Myself, and the other educators conducting the class brushed up on our spanish and brought our minuscule set of vocabulary to class each week. Having this language barrier may have prohibited some portions of the curriculum from being absorbed, but feedback from the participants after each class was reassuring that they were, in fact, interpreting and understanding the practicality of the lessons.

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Week 2 focused on establishing what food products were 100% Whole Grain and which products were not. If a product’s first ingredient lists “enriched” flour- it is not a Whole Grain product, but is a processed/refined grain product that has less health benefits than its whole grain counterpart. If the product’s ingredient list includes “100% Whole Grain” or “100% Whole Wheat” then the product IS a Whole Grain! If the label does not specify either of these, you can assume it is also not a Whole Grain. The Dietary Guidelines for American 2015-2020 recommends that half of all grains eaten be whole! So eat ya fiber!

February: 

I continued teaching the Cooking Matters for Adults class, loving every piece of my beautiful college and those in it, wrapping up my leadership position with the undergrad nutrition club, and enjoying the bounty of the spring season.

CMforAdults.JPG turnips

March:

Work in the campus community garden to get ready for spring and summer crops took place and I took a trip with the College during spring break to Charleston, SC that made me dream about the possibilities of living and dining in the Holy City one day.

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Peep our department head helping out in the garden! 🙂

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Exploring Fort Sumter in Charleston, being my true self.

April:

Class of 2017 had experienced their last ever Cornhuskin’ but there was still STUNT left to rock! And we did just that. Enjoy this pic of me lip-singing Beyonce. I felt just as sassy as the Queen B herself.

aprilSTUNTsarah   april3.jpg

I volunteered for the Piedmont Farm Tour at two of my favorite farms in NC. In Good Heart Farm (Pittsboro, NC) and Open Door Farm (Cedar Grove, NC). Check em out!

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May:

My future plans after graduation were still uncertain. I had the possibility of pursuing graduate school for nutrition, only on the condition that I would receive financial support. I already had accrued quite a tab from my undergrad and really wasn’t ready to take on any more. A year of service with the FoodCorps or AmeriCorps seemed interesting and something very worth pursuing, so I searched. I found an AmeriCorps VISTA position as a Summer Associate in CHARLESTON, SC (!!) working in nutrition at the Lowcountry Food Bank!!! How perfect. I applied and really had my hopes up for this position. I could earn some money towards paying my student loans, work in child nutrition (which I love!!), get some great experience in government programs, and live in the place I had dreamt of. I figured that I could work for the summer and return in the fall and go to grad school or come back and find a full-time position. *Insert shrugging shoulders emoji*

That emoji doesn’t show the stress that comes with not knowing your future after graduation. It seems way too nonchalant. It is what it is.

I was able to apply for a scholarship at Meredith College in their Master of Science in Nutrition program and did just that.

Graduation was nearing and I continued loving on my college, updating my LinkedIn (you should check it out!),  and spending all the time I could with my girlfriends.

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My all-time favorite/ life-guiding quote on my graduation cap. “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” -Albert Einstein. I have been blessed with the opportunity to receive higher education and experiences that have built my knowledge, therefore I have a duty to put that knowledge to work to better this world.

My best friend also got engaged to her perfect man and I got to be a part of it, eep!!

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June: 

It was settled, I would head down to Charleston during the first week of June. I found an amazing room in a house downtown for rent during the exact dates I needed it. That was God’s hand at work… AGAIN!

I enjoyed my last few weeks of summer volunteering at the 2017 Farm to Fork Picnic. I’m all about some volunteering and free admittance into an event. Events like this one solidify how ahead of the game North Carolina is in local food system work. We proudly support our farmers, big or small, male or female, organic or sustainable. There are SO many great people working in NC at every level to connect those who grow our food with consumers who eat it. It takes an army to do this and I have confidence we have an army that is continuing to grow. JuneFarmtoForkpic.jpg

The best friend that got engaged, asked me to be her Maid of Honor for her November wedding at a new restaurant in Raleigh, Brewery Bhavana! I said yes and we enjoyed the most delicious dumplings and beautiful atmosphere.

 

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I headed to Charleston, SC, moved in and had the first week free to roam the city. I did just that! I walked down streets, admired the houses and unique fauna each yard contained, and spent my nights in a rocking chair on my front porch, wine in hand, reading about Southern food in one of the most influential  southern places!!!! I was in Sarah Massey heaven.

egertonrosewine Much rosé was drank this summer on that porch.

I started working at the Lowcountry Food Bank and was tasked with administering and watching over their summer feeding sites on Johns Island. I had the best job- I got to make relationships with the people already tackling the problem that is summer hunger for the children on JI and envelop myself in their community fully by attending town hall and organization meetings. This summer’s work on JI again showed me how good people truly are and how we ARE made to serve one another.

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This summer was full of beauty! We had my graduation gift, a trip to Colorado, planned before I knew my summer schedule in Charleston and decided to go through with it anyway! Colorado was breathtaking to say the least. colorado.jpg

coloradoo.jpg    coloradocont.jpg The Continental Divide at 12,000ft!

 

July:

The rest of the summer in Charleston was full of history, shrimp and grits, sunsets, Hampton Park, the sweetest kiddos, window boxes, front yard fauna, rosé, dancing, an attempt at making sushi, walking, running, beach sitting, swimming, reading, more shrimp eating, rooftop bar sitting, the best cabbage pancakes, enjoying nature’s beauty, wedding-planning, becoming an amateur Charleston tour guide, pasta sauce and relish-selling, cheap bar-drinking, and 2AM biscuit-eating. It was a good one.

 

HamptonParkpeachtrees.jpg One of my favorite places to be this summer. Under two peach trees in Hampton Park.

hominygrillJune.jpg Eating fried green tomatoes (with the best homemade ranch!!) at Hominy Grill.

JuneShrimpandGrits.jpg I read A LOT of Southern food history and old cookbooks this summer. No shame. Here we recreated the famed Bill Neal’s Shrimp & Grits that were and still are on the menu at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC. With more rosé of course. The drink of summer.

Cabbagepancake.jpg Okonomiyaki with an egg, and chinese greens from Xiao Bao Biscuit. One of the yummiest things I tasted all summer. No joke. You know when you taste something, savor it so well, and enjoy the dish so much that the taste is forever ingrained in your brain? That’s how this is for me. Excuse my salivating. JohnsIsland

These two little guys eating lunch at a playground on Johns Island. This may look cute and picture-perfect, but truth is they were so preoccupied on playing with each other and were so young that I had to remind and encourage them every minute or so to eat. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems! But they finally ate their whole meal AND claimed they liked their carrots. WIN!

I found out I received the scholarship for the Master of Science in Nutrition program at Meredith College and that’s where I would be for the next two years!!! Blessing after blessing after blessing.

August:

I worked in Charleston until the second week of August, came back home, and started grad school that next week. Whew! A beautiful chocolate lab ran up in the yard and long story short… he became Tyler’s! Heyyyyyy Bo. I was still adjusting to grad school, working at the College, living back at home, and helping to plan the details for two weddings, and multiple bridal showers/parties/bachelorette weekends. I was busy.

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September:

Some of my awesome friends got together for a night to celebrate my being back in town! I felt refreshed and sort of a new person coming back from my summer adventures and now taking on grad school! We ate more Lowcountry cooking at The Big Easy in downtown Raleigh followed by fancy cocktails at Fox Liquor Bar. Because, well, I guess I wasn’t ready to give up the Charleston lifestyle just yet. We planted our fall crop in September of broccoli, swiss chard, collard, kale, radish, carrot, turnip, and mustard.

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One of my first classes focused on the role and importance of nutrition throughout the human lifecycle and gave special attention to community/government programs that offer assistance in each stage. “Food stamps” or SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is one of those programs. Our class was assigned to take the SNAP Challenge for 5 days. I’d heard of the challenge before and always wanted to do it- now I had the chance. The SNAP Challenge allots an individual $4.50 a day, the national average a SNAP participant receives, to sustain themselves. I could try and understand how hard it was to be under a restriction of what you cannot eat, eat nutritiously, avoid hunger, and remained satisfied and satiated, and menu planning, but actually living it was another feat. I could go on a rant about the SNAP program, how it could be improved, and be critical of our systems that have placed so many dependent upon the program, but that’s another post.

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I bought way too much rice+beans, no cheese (my weakness), and was being too budget-conscious, so I ended up eating beans and rice for almost 4 days. Not fun. I failed.

Two weekends were spent back to back on the NC coast celebrating bride-to-be’s with bachelorette weekends and another for a bridal shower! So fun!

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NC’s bounty!! Muscadines and pecans from Eastern NC, figs from Aunt Kathy’s backyard, and watermelon from Anna’s garden. Love a good summer spread!

October:

The first wedding of two was finally here and it went so well! Beautiful bride. Beautiful flowers. Good food. Good music. Good friends and family.
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Grad school was still going strong and I had been assigned two lit reviews around the same time. I’d never written a lit review before and was stressed. I had a bit going on and one wedding still to go! I was honored to take on a leadership role within my church and am still humbled at the fact that I was even considered and then chosen.

The last of summer’s and the start of fall’s bounty was upon us. Part of my duties at Meredith College was to grow produce for and help operate the Meredith Supported Agriculture program (MSA), much like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. We delivered produce baskets throughout the whole season!

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I had my first chance to give a lecture in an Introduction to Nutrition class on one of my favorite subjects- The Food Supply! I had the chance to expose students, if they hadn’t been already, to what goes into growing food and getting it to our plates. I showed the class a video from a farmer friend and producer in our state that grows sweet potatoes for a NC grocery chain that was very relevant to them. Food insecurity, food waste, and local food were all mentioned and I hope reality of those subjects stuck with a few and maybe even empowers them to act!

I started my first lit review with the topic of food waste within the school meal programs. Conclusion: There is a hefty cost associated with food waste in the National School Lunch Program, a program that is tightly operated and does not have much money to spare. Innovative ways of increasing consumption of meals in school children are being used like naming veggies “Mighty Meatballs,” “Super Carrots,” “Outrageous Oranges,” cutting or peeling fruits and veggies for easier consumption, and placing recess before lunch but more research needs to be done.

My second lit review focused on vitamin D status in pregnant and lactating women. Conclusion: Vitamin D “deficiency”, “insufficiency”, and “adequacy” are not clearly defined in the literature. Americans, especially pregnant and lactating women, could use some more vitamin D to improve health outcomes.

October 24th is Food Day and my MSN program volunteered as a group with Inter Faith Food Shuttle!

We took our annual church retreat to the North Carolina mountains for fellowship and fun and returned with apples galore! I came right back and roasted apple chicken sausage, sweet potatoes, onions, and apples for a yummy lunch the rest of the week! Definitely one of my favorite fall meals.

 November:

I celebrated another year of life with my 23rd birthday, attended my first Cornhuskin’ as a Meredith College alumna, celebrated Tyler and I’s SIX YEAR ANNIVERSARY (whaaaat), and the second wedding! The wedding turned out BEAUTIFUL and was so so much fun!

Noel.JPG Foraged chinese privet greens and berries from Raleigh, NC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started my second Cooking Matters class. I knew it was a lot to take on but this class was being held near my hometown at the local senior center with the other instructor being a friend of mine. I couldn’t give up this opportunity, it would be so fun! It was, and I’m so glad I signed up.

We ended the season on our sixth week of MSA distributions and in total grew and distributed 114 pounds of produce to the staff and faculty of Meredith College! Yay!! I’m pretty proud of that. When a survey was sent out to everyone who participated, almost half of the respondents answered that they had increased their vegetable consumption and had been exposed to new types of vegetables while over half felt more confident in preparing vegetables. THAT is awesome!!! *happy dance*

Thanksgiving was a time of overwhelming thankfulness for my life and those in it. At that moment, I was so aware of all my blessings- (1) I had three houses to visit that day, because of my huge blended family, (2) my college friends were still being so intentional about keeping up with each other, (3) I had lots of yummy foods to choose from, (4) I had time to relax and not do anything school work related…. oh, and the Caspers announced to us that a turkey wasn’t the only thing in the oven… Baby Casper will be arriving July 2018!!

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December:

The Cooking Matters class ended and was bittersweet. The class included 10 women over the age of 60 that were so motivated to learn and made concrete everything the curriculum taught. I love Cooking Matters and how it empowers people to have confidence in the kitchen.

I was able to fill in for my professor and lecture again in Introduction to Nutrition, this time on Breastfeeding and Lactation. I get all giddy when it comes to promoting moms breastfeeding babies! My hope was that those students left class wanting to support women that are breastfeeding, and if they have the choice one day, to breastfeed their own babes.

I attended the North Carolina Dietetics Association meeting in Durham, NC where the theme of meeting was sustainable food and the Registered Dietitian’s role in promoting local producers and disseminating fear around our food system.

IMG_7672 NCGT Center for Environmental Farming Systems representation at the NCDA meeting, woohoo!! And a mention of the North Carolina Growing Together program! I was a NCGT Apprentice in the summer of 2016 and loved it!

I finished my final exams feeling stressed but confident in myself.

I leave this year feeling thankful, humbled, and excited for the future. It was an exciting and eventful year and I’m sure 2018 will be also!

I leave this year feeling excited and loving my field of study. Food and talk of nutrition is all around us and fills our thoughts at least 2-3 times a day, people find joy in it, and people find pain in it. This year I was able to grow, cook, share, preserve, photograph, study, teach, and sell the thing that makes the world go round. Each day is different and I can’t wait for the future!

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Reflecting on 2017

  1. Sheri Hester says:

    Great insights and so much learned and experienced during the year! You have a wonderful passion for learning and improving people’s lives through what you learn ! You are a true blessing !

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