Brynn Waylonis is an MTCC AmeriCorps Summer Associate VISTA serving with the FoodCorps team in Boulder, MT.

Locally grown lettuce from the greenhouse
I never would have guessed that I would be spending my summer in Boulder, Montana helping out with the 21st Century Program at Boulder Elementary, as I am originally from Central City, PA.  Since being here I have discovered what mountains truly are, and I have learned to live in a cabin with no indoor running water.  

Part of my job includes maintenance at the Youth Garden and greenhouse near the elementary school.  You can usually find me weeding and watering when I’m in the garden.  The best experience I’ve had so far was when I was transplanting tomatoes and some local kids were walking by and wanted to help.  Seeing kids say that they “love to help people” just does my heart so much good.  My intention from that day turned from solely getting the job done while enjoying myself to making sure that the kids also had fun doing their assigned tasks.  Surprisingly, the hardest part of having the kids help out is making sure that they all got an equal turn to do what they wanted to do.  The kids helped me transplant tomatoes, move the transplanted tomatoes inside the greenhouse, plant beans, plant radishes, and water the tomatoes and other plants.
Isaiah, a student helper, cutting cucumbers

It is currently the second week of the Boulder 21st Century Community Learning Center’s summer program, and so far most of my time has been spent in the kitchen preparing meals and cleaning up.  Each day I work with student helpers and my supervisor, Lea Howe, to make sure that the food gets to the kids in time for lunch.   One day I asked a girl what her favorite part of the meal was, and she said “the salad”.  Surprisingly, a lot of the kids in the program seem to like the salad, and I believe this is because they help us harvest the lettuce.

Our main challenge is getting the food into a form that the kids will eat and having some parents tell us that their kids don’t like the meals.  There are naturally some foods that the kids will not like, but the main thing when it comes to what they will eat is the delivery.  For instance, we served pizza that had a sauce containing spinach.  A lot of kids who did not like spinach still ate the meal because they like eating pizza.
 The summer program is as much of a learning process for me as it is for the kids.  If kids are exposed to nutrition at a younger age, they are more likely to continue with that lifestyle when they get older.  I was not exposed to a healthy lifestyle when I was young and mostly ate processed foods.  In high school, I tried to develop a healthy lifestyle, but it was hard to maintain since my family preferred their current diet.  So, when I got into college I continued to eat a lot of processed foods and became a caffeine junkie.  Here, I have been exposed to healthy recipes and realized that it is not necessarily more expensive to lead a healthy lifestyle if you get your food from the right places.  In Boulder, it seems like people are really open and willing to share their produce with others.
Enjoying breakfast
The transition from Pennsylvania to Montana has so far been a positive one.  I have met some amazing people and look forward to meeting more community members and continuing to learn more throughout the summer.