5 Questions for Camryn Hellwarth
Camryn Hellwarth participated in Eco Practicum Catskills last summer. She is currently a student at Sarah Lawrence College where she studies Environmental Science, Food Studies, and Journalism. Her interest in health and food justice led her to become involved with Teens for Food Justice, where she is the Program and Outreach Intern. In addition to teaching ballet at her local dance studio and coaching Learn to Skate classes, Camryn is active in philanthropic work, and volunteers with organizations such as Midnight Run, which delivers food to the homeless, and Dorot, a program where volunteers visit homebound elderly citizens of the Jewish community.
What work do you do and what lessons from Eco Practicum do you apply at your job?
I am the Program and Outreach Intern at Teens for Food Justice, a nonprofit that has organized teens to build hydroponic farming systems in a Bed-Stuy elementary school, where volunteers work to educate communities about sustainable, and healthy eating, while provide families with fresh produce from the farm. The experiential learning I was a part of at the Eco Practicum Catskills program taught me the importance of hands-on experience, and how to apply such work in an academic setting, which is what I strive to do through the activities and programs I help to develop at Teens for Food Justice.
What are the most fulfilling and most challenging parts of what you do?
By far, the most fulfilling parts of my work come during the Service Days that we host every month. These events bring the community into our hydroponic farm, where they can take home fresh produce, engage in active and educational games, and learn how to be food justice advocates in their own neighborhood. One of the most rewarding experiences was to work with elementary school kids, and teach them how to use Michael Pollan’s Food Rules to play a game of Good Fridge, Bad Fridge, in which they had to decide which foods were healthy, and which should be thrown out of the fridge. The hours leading up to these events are often the most challenging, because this is when we must materialize all of the activities we have created, and get all of our food and games ready for the families who come visit our farm.
Describe a moment or situation that helped you realize your passion?
The moments that have made me most aware of what I am passionate about are numerous, diverse, and still occurring. However, I often credit my first spark of interest in food studies to the elementary school lunch table. It is here that I was intrigued by the diversity of food products and the interactions that took place around the aggressive trading and bargaining of goldfish, Kool-Aid, and cheese sticks. More recently, my work with Teens for Food Justice has allowed me to engage with food insecure youth. One example involved a build-your-own-smoothie station, where I was able to blend up fruit smoothies with kale, fresh berries, and flax seeds for kids and their families. The satisfaction I get from bringing kale smoothies to Bed-Stuy families lets me know that my work is taking me in a positive and passionate direction.
What advice do you have for people looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities?
Get involved in experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, and work with organizations that will support you in these challenging spaces. It is through this process that you will learn the most about yourself and how you can best serve the communities around you to bring about greater change.
What’s one thing you think everyone should know how to do?
We should all know how to decipher between what waste goes into the garbage and what waste goes into the compost. By becoming aware of how much of our garbage is actually food waste, we can begin to realize how important it is to return this waste to the soil.
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