Miranda Klugesherz, KC Healthy Kids’ director of the Kansas Alliance for Wellness tells how her early experiences shaped her career.
On the day I left for college, my family was evicted from the home we had rented for 12 years – a reality we had feared for years before as my young parents struggled to make ends meet in the grip of the recession. The scholarship that got me to school also introduced me to life with students my age who had never heard of SNAP and didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of skipping class to get a few extra hours on the clock at work. In the cafeteria, I saw half-eaten plates of pasta, pizza and salad being tossed into bins and I thought of my family and the many times we had managed to stretch a few packs of ramen noodles until payday.
Attending college in small-town Nebraska, however, I made a number of friends who had grown up on farms and ranches, hours away from the nearest grocery store. Their diets had largely been at the mercy of the weather and preservation techniques. So they spent their springs building fences and digging trenches, and their summers weeding. Their fall months saw picking and canning and praying their haul would stretch through the long winter ahead when roads were impassable and money was thin. Their experience with the food system was markedly different than mine, but certainly not any easier.
We’ll call this my career origin story, the apex of which came when, as a hungry and idealistic college sophomore, I thought to myself, “It should be easier to eat.” So I set out to find a one-size-fits-all prescription solution, not knowing at the time that rarely is anything so simple. In fact, the more I learned about the ambiguous behemoths we call “food systems,” the muddier the waters of change seemed to become. One constant, however, did emerge: the unmatched role communities play in shaping their local food system.
My career has taken me to work on food systems in many of those communities: from backpack programs serving 100 kids in rural Nebraska, to Irish food banks famed for having serviced the entire upper-half of the island since World War II. I’ve bought eggs from the smallest market in Haiti and helped write testimony for the Farm Bill to be heard in congress.
The two years I spent helping to form and lead a food council in central Kansas, however, were the most formative by far. Make no mistake, something big is happening in the heartland. The people of the ‘Sunflower State’ are full of compassion for their fellow humans, treasure the land on which they live, and work in relentless pursuit of justice when either is threatened. I’m honored to be part of what they’re building, and I’m so looking forward to introducing them to you through this news feed over the coming years.