By Kate Constantine, Food Rescue Coordinator at Lovin’ Spoonfuls
This Women’s History Month, we reflect on women trailblazers making change for people facing food insecurity in their communities.
During my time as a Food Rescue Coordinator at Lovin’ Spoonfuls, I have been lucky to get to chat with individuals working to fight food insecurity from our amazing all-female Senior Leadership Team (Ashley Stanley, Lauren Palumbo, and Erin Keohane) to the women (predominantly women!) leading food distribution efforts for our nonprofit partners, those who volunteer, cook homemade meals, lead groups, and so much more.
I talked with just two of these women about their experiences with food and what keeps them motivated to do this work: Nansee Ӧng from Lifeboat Boston Food Pantry and Kianesha Reeves from Roxbury Youthworks.
My grandma owned a temple in a tiny little town hidden in Malaysia. The town had less than 20,000 people. Life was simple, slow, and quiet. People started working as early as 3 am in the rubber plantations [and finished] by 10 am. Around noon, the villagers would hang out and help out in the temple. My grandma and my aunt, who is a nun, were busy preparing meals. They would send me to the back yard and to pick a kind of tiny green fruit high up in a tree. I did not know then that it was actually Asian olives. I loved hanging around her big kitchen.
My mum. There were 10 siblings, plus my mom and dad. We [were] raised not to waste any food. I remember her words, ‘We are blessed and lucky to have food because out in the world, there are people not as lucky as us, who always have to sleep with an empty tummy.’ The produce we ate was grown by my mum. Only on a special occasion would we have chicken.
I’ve been volunteering with nonprofits since I was six—my grandma was my inspiration.
The people inspire me, and I love working with Abby from Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
When I think about food as a child, I instantly think about my grandmother who is no longer with us. She is who I saw as the leader of our family, and I just remember the many delicious dishes she would prepare. In honor of her birthday every year, we have a fish fry. Every Friday my grandmother would fry fish, french fries, [and] onion rings. We would also have corn on the cob and salad.
Also, my mother every Sunday (she still does this now) would cook a big meal and family and friends would stop in. She would also cook during the week and I can remember friends and family coming by to eat on those days as well. My mother fed our neighbors and ensured everyone [had food]. Even when we didn’t have much, she still found a way to make sure everyone’s bellies were full. Sometimes I thought it was like magic. Like how did she create all of this with just what she had? Holidays were like heaven in regards to food, too. I have some of the same traditions today.
Yes, absolutely. My grandmothers, my mother, my aunts, and my cousins. Growing up they were always in the kitchen, especially for holidays making every dish you could ever think of, [and] sometimes starting to prepare food the day before. I have to admit, at one point I said I didn’t want to know how to cook because of how hard I saw the women in my life work and then come home to create masterpiece meals. I thought it was a bit unfair, but my love for food couldn’t keep me away from the kitchen. I learned different lessons and had moments to bond with and learn family recipes from the women in my life. I was always told how certain foods are necessary for certain things in regards to growth, knowledge, and well-being. My grandmother was diabetic, so I saw her give herself shots daily and saw her diet change. At those moments, she reminded me of healthy eating habits.
I’ve been working for nonprofits for over a decade since I graduated from undergrad.
Growing up and seeing firsthand how many families are in need of food and the challenges they face to get food. As a worker in the nonprofit world, supporting families with food and resources to get food has inspired me to continue fighting to ensure everybody eats. I’ve learned the effects that a lack of food has on kids especially when it comes to learning. I think gender does factor into it as women are usually the people to get and prepare the food, so they [understand the responsibility]. I surround myself with women who inspire me in so many ways. I am always ready to learn from the next woman and I think women have so much to offer, so much expertise and seasoning.