We love a good multi-tasker, and Fiona definitely fits the bill, carving out time from her coursework as a graduate student to work with Real Food Media - a collaborative initiative that attempts to create change in our food system by sparking conversations, encouraging storytelling, and building community. If you've made, or are interested in making, a super-short film that relates to those topics, check out the contest submission guidelines for Real Food Media's third annual international short film competition. The deadline to enter is March 1st, 2016.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
Food has always been a deep point of connection with my cultural heritage (Sicilian + Lebanese + French + Irish), but I didn't realize I could ever work in food until I wanted to eat more of it! I was nineteen years old and living in Ann Arbor, MI, and my love for sandwiches led me to the internationally acclaimed Zingerman's Deli. I applied to work there because it was delicious, but Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman's founding partners, were incredible role models to show that working in good food was possible, and profitable. My educational background is in human rights and political science, yet while I was in undergrad I never thought I could join food and justice together as a career. Exposure to advocates and practitioners like Real Food Media's own Anna Lappé, Raj Patel and Malik Yakini really opened up a new way of thinking about food as a fundamental building block of human rights and self determination - and as a viable career path.
How did you get your current good food job?
This fall I relocated from Detroit to the Bay Area for a master's degree in Public Health and City Planning. In August I was casually looking at Good Food Jobs to see what the landscape was like in the Bay for food-related jobs, and blundered onto a posting for Real Food Media. While I wasn't looking to start working, and really thought it was important to focus on being a student, I couldn't resist and applied.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
In Detroit I worked for over four years running food access programs at Eastern Market, Detroit's historic public market. Eastern Market was a small, all-hands-on-deck team. As such, I started working on many facets of our programs - including marketing and communications. According to Prevention Institute, each day fast food companies spend over $5 million marketing to children. We knew that at Eastern Market we had an uphill battle to fight to get people to come to the market and purchase fruits and vegetables. I took great pride in producing high quality traditional and social media collateral to encourage people to come to our market - and help provide a counter narrative in Detroit to the saturation of big food companies. However, I knew that this work could also happen at a higher level, and that's why I am so thrilled to be on the Real Food Media team. Working on program areas such as Real Food Films, an online competition of under-four-minute shorts showcasing change in the food system, is a much broader way I can help transform what we eat, and help frame that story in justice and equity.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
Because my position at Real Food Media was a happy accident, I really didn't have to overcome any big obstacles. I think my biggest challenge is forcing myself to do reading for class, when I would much rather be working with my stellar colleagues.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
My former colleague at Eastern Market, Randall Fogelman, taught me to pick out the qualities in supervisors that you like and dislike, and to model them (or root them out) of your own behavior. This has been helpful in thinking about the leader and colleague I aspire to be, and to help make work environments more harmonious.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
At Real Food Media we truly believe that we have the power to flip the way we think about, and eat, food. I am thrilled to see the submissions for the third year of the Real Food Films Contest. Shameless plug: We are still accepting submissions, so if you have a film or can edit down any existing footage, please enter your short by March 1, 2016 for a shot at $15,000 in prizes and distribution opportunities!
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
Spanish immersion classes! Moving to California has propelled my desire to learn our nation's unofficial second language. I think it is incredibly important for everyone working in food justice to be able to communicate across linguistic boundaries, specifically with immigrant communities. 70% of the farm labor in the US is provided by immigrants - this is just a no-brainer.