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 my childhood home–a reality we had feared for years before as my young and hard-working 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 or food stamps 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 times we had managed to make ramen stretch until payday.
Attending school in small-town Nebraska, however, I had many friends who grew up on farms and ranches, hours away from the nearest grocery store. Their diets were largely 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 local communities and leaders play in making their food system work for them.
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 grocery store in Haiti and helped write testimony for the Farm Bill to be heard in congress.
Through it all, I came to believe that no place quite compares to Kansas. The people of this state are welcoming, driven and full of heart for their fellow humans and for the land. I’m looking forward to introducing them to you through this news feed over the next year.