My childhood was filled with happy meals and the cool toys that came with them, an occasional McRiblet sandwich, and hours on the golden arches’ playgrounds before and after school. My father put in 47 years working in Georgia for McDonald’s. Although my experiences from a lifelong relationship with the restaurant chain are directly influenced by my privileges, I noticed stark differences along racial lines and the roles people served- opportunities afforded to the dominant culture and gender, left others out. Employees were managed to keep costs low, profits high, and benefits non-existent – producing cheap food for cheap labor. Fast food provides a more accessible route to calories, albeit limited actual nutrition, leading to myriad health issues from decades of consuming increasingly more processed, sugary, fatty, industrialized foods – which affects just about every other aspect of life. These observations have marinated in my mind for a lifetime, shaping much of how I envision a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable food system for all.
Thirteen years ago, I began my Alaskan journey to learn more deeply about growing sustainable food. I came to Homer as a summer farm intern and immediately fell in love with the Cook Inlet watershed – its people, its environment, and especially its foodways. I would eventually lead the Homer Farmers Market for ten years. Building on this experience, I joined Cook Inletkeeper to help launch the Alaska Food Hub, which led to more local food projects like building the Alaska Farmers Market Association and the AK Salmon-Safe agricultural initiative.
I’ve learned about the power of public policy in food systems to address a changing climate and the importance of having as many voices as possible represented in decisions and planning, especially those traditionally left out or displaced by colonialism. I’ve opened my eyes to the power of local community-led solutions and to the ideas of food sovereignty and justice.
In 2020, Inletkeeper entered into a partnership with the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC) to support my work as a part-time director, and it’s my bittersweet pleasure to announce that I will be moving to AFPC full-time this September. I will remain a collaborator with Inletkeeper, who was vital in increasing organizational capacity for AFPC. Through my time at Inletkeeper, I’ve had the honor of working with some of the most dedicated, passionate, supportive, creative, and hardworking farmers and coworkers.
I leave you with this photo, taken recently in Kodiak while supporting the Alutiiq Grown Qik’traq food hub project, that encapsulates my journey: beginning with McDonald’s and continuing with Local Food, and all points in between. My deepest gratitude to each and every one of you.