The quintessential college Spring Break is widely associated with travel, warm weather, cold drinks, and loud music. For some, however, Spring Break is a rare time to partake in something that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for during the school year. Emmanuel College offers several service opportunities for Spring Break, four of which were part of our faith-based Alternative Spring Break program. This year, students traveled to New Orleans, Phoenix, and Houston to help rebuild and replenish communities each with their own unique situations and issues, while our Boston group stayed back in Roxbury to focus on the ever-emerging problem of food insecurity in America.
Tomatoes grown in gardens at the Notre Dame Campus by EC’s Urban Food Project this past summer, which operates year round in and out of the campus greenhouse growing food to be used locally.
Many Boston neighborhoods are actually food deserts, which means that an overwhelming amount of residents in those areas don’t have access to healthy and nutritious foods. Sometimes this is due to a lack of public transit, or because they live in areas predominantly catered to by corner stores, or it can even be an issue of inadequate benefits being provided through programs such as SNAP. Either way, this means the focus of the week for Boston ASB students is working to help alleviate some of that immediate need throughout the city by visiting organizations with innovative approaches to solving hunger and homelessness.
Each of the sites contributed to the trip in a special way, and we really got to see that progression from farm to table, whether we were sorting food at the Greater Boston Food Bank or planting and labeling at The Food Project on Dudley St. Much of our group particularly loved sites like Rosie’s Place which focuses on homeless women with an aim to foster dignity of the whole person, and the Daily Table, a grocery store that seeks to remedy the issue of food waste in America by slashing prices of everything from produce to prepared meals in their kitchen. Even though we were hindered by the weather at some points, it gave us time to reflect on what we were seeing and how to further pursue solutions to these basic human rights being underrepresented.
The Pine Street Inn, just a short walk from Back Bay Station, offers comprehensive programs to more individuals experiencing homelessness and chronic poverty in the New England area than almost anywhere else. They operate using the “Housing First” model, but also address any mental health or employment needs to help people maintain their housing.
As with any kind of service, there were moments where our morale began to take a hit. It’s very difficult to see how programs that appear to have it all together are still barely beginning to scratch the surface of these huge issues! We were lucky to close off the week by getting to talk to third graders at Mission Grammar school about our experiences, which helped us process these moments in a big way. Moreover, we had a fun competition later on that involved cooking on the same budget that someone eligible for SNAP benefits would have– for us, that meant making 20 three course meals for less than $50 altogether! Between that and our exclusive use of walking and public transit, the group got a really good sense in a short time of the difficulties many have to endure just when doing basic grocery shopping.
A spicy three ingredient aioli on tortillas topped with roasted cauliflower and beets as one of the winning dishes of the cooking challenge!
This was my third and final year with the ASB Boston trip and as cheesy as it sounds, I’d have to say it was the most wonderful way to say goodbye to Emmanuel. It was a group of all women, and I felt like I got a glimpse of my school’s history back before it was coed; Fifteen women all coming together for social justice. We may not have done too much traveling, but it feels as though we did go far.