Flathead Valley Community College student Gracelyn Abel will graduate with an A.S. in Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems in 2020 and transfer to Montana State University to pursue a bachelor's degree. Gracelyn was moved to get a degree in agriculture when she realized there was a systemic disconnection between people and the sources of their food. Her efforts to bridge this gap include working with Feed the Flathead to get fresh produce on the plates of community members. She has also worked to educate the public about local pollinators, seed germination and seed viability, and has held demonstrations to teach children how to bake bread from locally grown whole grains. Currently, Gracelyn is volunteering in a whole-foods cooking class at FVCC so she can contribute to educating her peers on food preparation and nutrition. Through the diversity of her volunteer work and education, Gracelyn is well equipped to pursue her dreams of building up community food systems in the present and future.
On my educational journey, it became apparent to me that there is something inherently dysfunctional about the whole agricultural system. Farmers are growing more food than they ever have before, yet people are going hungry and our population is malnourished. How can obesity and starvation exist in the same socio-economic class? Poor diet and poor access to food have caused this paradox to spread across communities around the world. I feel called to find the answers to my own questions regarding these issues and to be a part of future solutions.
Changing the system overnight is a daunting and impossible task, so I’ve decided to start where I can and move forward from there. I believe that education is a primary pillar to the solutions of the future, thus the majority of my civic engagement has focused on community education. It is imperative to raise the next generation to be informed members of the community who hold a long-lasting connection with their food, understand where their food comes from, and support producers who prioritize sustainability, nutrition, and access to food. I hope that little by little, I can create lasting change in my community and beyond.