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By Hannah Rudt ‘23
  • Department of Global Development
  • Food

As Community Food Systems minors, students engage with community-based organizations to gain rich, hands-on experiences in the food system. This is a story about Hannah Rudt ‘23’s reinvigorating connection to the food system during the Covid-19 pandemic. During the practicum review class, students spent many class periods discussing the importance of small details. Hannah found this exercise therapeutic and decided to write about a small moment of joy during the pandemic. She hopes this story reminds you of a small “win” in your own relationship with the food system.

The crisp air smelled like Rosh Hashanah and the first days of school. It could have been any other year, except that my nose tickled with the sterile scent of sanitizer. I was at home for my sophomore fall of college and experiencing a Jewish new year like never before. 

Among greater challenges, the task at hand was to find enough small, local jars of honey to package and send to the congregants of my family’s synagogue. Eating apples dipped in honey is an age-old tradition to bring in a sweet new year; Covid-19 was not going to stop the Jews, especially those of the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

“We are going to the Astor Place farmers market!” declared my mother. She had been in touch with a farmer who could supply 150 small hexagonal jars of New York State honey. This solution was surprising. My family had not been on the subway in over six months nor had we ever been to the farmers market. I left my apartment with a refreshing eagerness.

Musty air whipped my hair and a shrill screech erupted. I was on the subway again, traversing the winding skeleton of New York City. My home city had endured overwhelming loss and pain since I had last been on the subway. The car was practically empty, but a small buzz of energy remained. 

We approached the modest farmers market. A dozen stalls lined the square that is Astor Place. I skipped ahead. Folding tables overflowed with tomatoes, brussels sprouts, and plums. The sterile scent of sanitizer momentarily disappeared. How could anything be abnormal in this moment? We drifted over to the honey vendor and my mom immediately became engrossed in conversation. Snippets about food, Jewish holidays, and beekeeping carried through the air. 

A three-foot tall basil plant caught my eye. I quickly left the honey stand and my brother diligently followed. I did not know why, but I knew I had to have it. The vendor pulled the plant out from a bucket of water. To my surprise, the roots were attached, dripping in an enchanting entanglement. I was now the owner of a comically large, ridiculously cheap, glaringly bright basil plant. And I could not have felt more invigorated. 

We descended back into the subway with 150 hexagonal jars of honey and one basil plant. I could not help but smile under my mask about such an adventurous day in the midst of a rather melancholy few months. I was reconnected to my family, to Judaism, to the city I loved so much, all by way of the food system. 

About the author

Hannah Rudt ‘23 is a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences studying Information Science and Community Food Systems. Growing up in New York City, she learned about inequitable food systems at a young age, seeing how a lack of access to nutritious food affected her communities. Hannah is interested in using data science to improve food systems and she is passionate about uplifting the voices of those who are impacted by health disparities through community-based projects. Since February 2020, she has worked on qualitative public health and nutrition studies with the Leak Research Group, which inspired her commitment to CFS. Outside of school, Hannah enjoys baking challah, playing guitar, and (slowly) completing triathlons.

Read the entire Community Food Systems 2022 narrative series.

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