Cultural Connections for Seed to Supper

This CCE student intern will help to create Niagara County specific resources for a new Seed to Supper program, involving a pilot of hands-on activities catered to specific focus groups within the county that will help a larger statewide effort at improved marketing, hands-on activities and facilitator tools for the program across BIPOC participants.  This person will pilot a new model of working with CCE offices with a Cornell student’s support to help successfully launch the first year of a Seed to Supper program.  This student will help with developing community outreach materials, building partnerships with schools and Indigenous groups, and building capacity for CCE educators in the busy spring and summer season. Working with Tuscarora Nation as well as the City of Lockport School District Farm-to-School Program, the student will pilot Seed to Supper with 30 families, supported by 30 hands-on gardening kits developed through the Seed to Supper program statewide in conjunction with Cornell Garden-Based Learning program (these kits will be funded by a separate Smith Lever grant).  The focus of the student research will be on gathering feedback from families in BIPOC community groups on key garden activities, seeds and recipes that are culturally significant and supportive of beginning gardening skills for food security.  Specific groups have been hardest hit by the food scarcity challenges of this time. In 2021, more than 1 in 5 NYS adults with children reported they were not eating enough in the prior week;1 in 4 Hispanic New Yorkers (29%) and 1 in 5 Black New Yorkers (20%) reported household food scarcity in the last week (COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey, March 2021).  Among Indigenous groups, the pandemic shortened life expectancy by 6.5 years, compared to the general population’s life expectancy of 3 years (New York Times, 2022).  To address this gap in BIPOC community health disparities, our pilot will focus on:  conducting community conversations with BIPOC focus groups most affected by food insecurity in Niagara County, developing 5 hands-on activity templates to address gaps in knowledge and barriers to participation from our Seed to Supper course for families, putting together pilot kits to work with Seed to Supper families, and evaluating learning results from the trial of using these kits.  The focus will be on including families from key demographics in the county that are not well represented in our Master Gardener Volunteer Program (non-white participants):  low-income LatinX, African American, Indigenous, and Asian background participants.  We are hoping to recruit these same families with others to participate in the Seed to Supper course over the summer, and in future years support key adults interested in leading Seed to Supper as Garden Educators and Master Gardeners through a stipend to take the training and build their skills further.  The outcomes will be a refined Facilitator Guide for Seed to Supper Garden Educators, an improved flyer for marketing across diverse groups, 5 additional hands-on activities addressing culturally inclusive gardening skills and needs, and training at least 5 long-term Garden Educator mentors in Niagara County to continue the Seed to Supper program as volunteers in the future.

Roles and responsibilities 

The student intern will focus on the following deliverables:

  • Supporting community conversations with focus groups from key demographics interested in the Seed to Supper program.  
  • Using feedback from focus groups to understand key challenges, barriers and opportunities for culturally relevant program activities
  • Developing and editing a facilitator’s guide to Seed to Supper to support better preparation of community partners as Garden Educators
  • Developing 5+ additional hands-on activities for our Seed to Supper Course, reviewed in partnership with a statewide Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team and Seed to Supper Program Manager, using current activities as templates.
  • Piloting at least 30 hands-on activity kits with key population groups in Niagara County, focused on low-income families from communities of color, to get input and feedback on relevancy, improvements and educational outcomes. 

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Students with a background in Plant Sciences, Community Food Systems, Landscape Architecture, or related disciplines are encouraged to apply.  A coursework focus on food systems, graphic design or marketing, food access, social justice issues, adult learning and plant systems are all relevant to this internship as preparation.

Learning outcomes 

Some of the learning outcomes expected in this internship include:

  • Understanding of food access root causes and programs and solutions in Niagara County, and New York State more generally
  • Understanding of program development and program management, will be key takeaways from our program
  • A student will learn analytical skills in grounded research methods, interviewing skills, and survey analysis and development.
  • Non-profit and Extension skills like community participation methods, cultural competency, coordinating educational programs, partnership development, outreach and curriculum development will support this student’s work prospects after graduation