Hey y'all! My name is Ashley Burton. I am a summer intern for New Roots!
Also, I have the spectacular fellowship: FoodWorks through Middlebury College.
My hometown is the “city by the river” also known as Memphis. Currently, I am a Masters of Public Health candidate at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. Inquiring minds may wonder what led me to Louisville.
A few years ago, I realized the inadequate food supply in my community. I live in what is known as a food desert. The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as: parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. TERRIBLE, I KNOW! My family and I were compelled to shop outside of our community to purchase decent produce at affordable rates. (I was very shocked when I learned there was actually an organic food section at Kroger. It was in the suburbs of course). Anyway, you know what happens after conflict occurs? One would hope a resolution(s) would follow.
I was on my high and mighty horse in my International Political class when the instructor mentioned food insecurity. She asked us to name places where food deserts exist. I spat out every underprivileged nation I could think of. She replied by saying, “Well, that’s true Ashley but what about downtown Memphis?” It hit me like a whirlwind. As I continued to think, I realized downtown Memphis was indeed a food desert and so was my own neighborhood! How could this happen in America? I was moved to act.
The summer of 2013, I applied to an internship with an environmental justice non-profit. I became a Community Organizer. There, I learned about environmental racism, agriculture, and sustainability on multiple levels. I was able to revitalize the local community garden and help unify the members of the community. We had free weekly community meals using mostly the food we grew and supplementing what we needed. There were nutrition and cooking classes for residents as well! It was by far the best experience of my life.
Since then, I have continued my work in activism. Activism is very broad. So for the sake of time, I will label myself a food justice activist. I have done a host of things to educate myself in agriculture and contributing /creating sustainable systems.
In conclusion, I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn from New Roots. They have been very warm in welcoming me. It is my desire to learn all I can from this organization and replicate the Fresh Stop model in my hometown of Memphis. Louisville reminds me a lot of my hometown. It is southern of course! This place has love and problems that I know the citizens are striving to resolve. I hope to contribute to the love here and initiate resolutions that will benefit all community members! Again, thank you for allowing me to work in your communities.