Well, it’s official. I’m a leader.
All kidding aside, I recently completed the Alaska Humanities Forum Leadership Anchorage program. Harry is also a Leadership Anchorage graduate. I think we may be the first couple to complete the program. (Our parents are very proud.) The program focuses on bringing together diverse people in the community and using the humanities as a basis for learning and discussions about leadership. Many of these programs began in the 1990s across the country. The Anchorage program continues to be the most successful.
Community members come to L.A. with a need and pitch a projects to help solve that problem. The class then selects 4 or 5 projects for the year. We break into small groups and work in teams on one of the projects. My small group chose to help the Spenard Farmers Market develop a food assistance plan. 38% of households in Alaska receive food assistance benefits. That’s more than 1 in 3! 43% of clients who receive food assistance at food pantries report having to choose between paying utilities and paying for food.
Here is a link to our presentation on Prezi. This is mostly a plug for Prezi. It’s amazing. And, commonly used at the TED conferences. If you don’t know about TED or Prezi, you should. Especially this TED presentation which shows how we learn words. It’s amazing. Really.
Anyway, back to Leadership Anchorage. Thanks to the hard work of the Spenard Farmers Market Board and our L.A. group, they are now the only market that makes all forms of food assistance easily accessible. SFM secured a State grant to fund a staff person and an EBT machine (like a debit card machine) for the farmers to use. They are also able to “cash out” farmers who accept food vouchers (food stamps, WIC, senior farmers market vouchers, etc.) the day of the market, alleviating the financial hardship of the normal 30 day waiting period on reimbursement by the State.
The folks at the Market were very excited about the work we did and wanted our group to make a good impression at our graduation reception. Each project group develops an informational display to showcase their work. The SFM folks met us at their storage unit and loaned us some seriously fabulous goods. So, our group did this for graduation:
In case it’s hard to see, that’s a 10 x 10 pop up market tent, full signage, mini picnic table/drawing station for the kids, lots of local produce, seed starts (on loan from the Need urban mini farm) cheese curds, and several loaves of homemade bread. Inside the museum. The curator kindly asked us to take down the potted plants we had hanging from the tent corners. Something about live plants and the fiber art in the museum. Needless to say, our display was the most eye catching. Here are a few more shots of our work.
The display table with the Vendor Handbook we developed (synthesizing the several hundred pages of training manuals the State issues into a 19 page illustrated mini-manual for vendors who want to accept food assistance), lots of SFM merchandise, and all of the sorts of products you might see at the market. Plus, we had fresh cheese curds and bread. People love that!
Here is another shot. You can see just how ridiculous it was that we had a tent in the middle of the museum atrium (stairs and fountain in the background).
In summary, the kids loved the drawing table. Everyone ate bread and cheese curds. And, the SFM folks were very pleased with the exposure their market got at the L.A. Graduation. A pretty good deal all the way around.