One of The Food Group’s newest staff members talk about the challenges of starting a new job during a pandemic, and how she plans to celebrate the holidays (+ special recipe included)!
KaZoua Berry has a lot on her plate these days. She’s a mother of three, all distance learning from home. She is married to a man in the trucking business and is going to school for her master’s degree in Nutrition Education. She also just started a new job as The Food Group’s Farm Education Manager. But she’s optimistic about where she is now.
“I hit the floor running and I’m still sprinting,” Berry said about starting her new job. “I came in during the time of mid-season check-in’s. It’s a lot. But I have a lot of fun. This is a really good organization and I have a great support team, so I don’t feel burned out. I don’t feel emotionally taxed out. I feel tired because it is just the nature of 2020!”
Berry is proud of the work she has done so far and is deep into figuring out the details of how to continue classes while still battling the many changes brought on by the pandemic. And that is daunting.
“There were challenges. Our education [program] is typically conducted in a classroom setting, but because of COVID it was moved online and that was really difficult for our farmers because” the technology was hard for them to learn,” she said.
“The Food Group has been intentional about providing translation services during classes. However, this has created another challenge when classes were moved online. Additionally, some farmers don’t have access to a computer and/or wifi. So The Food Group has started looking into tech support and hot spots.
“COVID has really been a push to show people that we need to be growing our own food. If you’re able to grow your own food, you need to be growing your own food,” Berry said. “There’s a high need of wanting to be self-sustaining and people are becoming more connected with the food” making seeds harder to come by, so The Food Group is encouraging their farmers to source seeds earlier than usual.
“Food insecurity is a huge thing,” she said. Berry’s responsibilities at The Food Group’s Big River Farms program revolves around education in organic agriculture for farmers from historically underrepresented communities. With COVID-19 disrupting farming and food markets this year, The Food Group provided 120,000 of fresh produce from local farmers to food shelves throughout the metro area in 2020.
“It’s not just about feeding people and reducing hunger. It’s also about bringing in nutritious food. Food is in my soul. ”
In her soul, indeed. In 2018, Berry’s greens dish won her first place at the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance’s annual Greens Cook Off [scroll down for recipe!]. And this year, she plans on including her award winning greens in her holiday dinner drop offs.
Pre-pandemic, the Berry family would spend the holiday season caroling and raising money for the Salvation Army at the Cub Foods off Lake Street in South Minneapolis, and joining a festive meal with her husband’s large family.
“Holidays are usually a big deal because we’re all so busy. It’s really nice for us to just eat together. We love eating.” Berry said. “We would have a spread of two farm tables full of food. Those are things that we do miss, that we can’t do at the moment. We understand that we need to social distance but it’s actually really hard for our kids and our parents, more than us.”
This year, Berry plans on making holiday dinner and will drop off meals to the elders in her family, and maybe a family Zoom call…although the Thanksgiving zoom with some 30 relatives was a bit hectic.
“I swear I’ve never seen so much nose hair in my life!” Berry laughed. “It was really chaotic but I know that everybody misses each other.”
Interested in making Berry’s award winning greens dish? Download the recipe here.
To learn more about the Emerging Farmers program, click here.
PIVOT FOR THE PEAK SERIES: Addressing Hunger during COVID-19 is a series of stories co-produced with the other media group . The series provides a critical look into how this organization has pivoted its approach to address the needs of the community, as experts believe the peak of the pandemic is still on the horizon.