Service-Learning Reflection: Jake Burke

Located just north of Waco, World Hunger Relief, Inc. is an organization and educational farm dedicated to teaching people about sustainable agriculture and how it can be used to help end food insecurity. According to Action Against Hunger, across the globe, one in every nine people don’t have access to safe or nutritious food. WHRI started in the 1970s, training interns who would often come from various places around the world. Upon completing their internship, they would return home to implement the skills they learned in hopes of alleviating food insecurity in their communities. Recently I had the opportunity to assist and learn about sustainable agriculture from the amazing people at WHRI. Over the course of two and half days, I assisted with many farm chores such as feeding and taking care of livestock, mainly chickens and rabbits, pulling weeds from the gardens, and processing dead chickens while also helping with WHRI’s Farm Camp. I also learned so much about ways to increase sustainability and what I can do to do my part in ending world hunger.

When we first arrived, we were greeted by Sky Toney, the Director of Education at WHRI. Sky told us about the work we would be doing throughout the week and then gave us a tour of the farm. The next morning at 6:00 A.M. we woke up to feed rabbits, let the chickens out of their coop, and check on the goats and livestock guardian dogs. After that, we were split into two groups: my group helped with the WHRI Farm Camp while the other worked in the market garden. During the Farm Camp, I assisted interns Lara and Tara at various stations. The first station was teaching the kids about pollinators and their importance before creating seed balls.

The seed balls were made by mixing soil and fertilizer with seeds for native grasses. They were then thrown into the field in hopes that the seeds would disperse and allow the native grasses to grow. After a quick snack, we had the kids build bug houses that provide shelter to various beetles and other beneficial species. I really enjoyed this because one of the possible career

choices I’ve thought about is doing educational outreach on environmental issues, so this was an awesome opportunity to get experience with this. After lunch, the camp ended, and we were put to work in the garden. I placed woodchips and mulch around various crops to help cover up the soil. We worked on that for roughly three hours before we were done for the day. That night, my friend Daniel and I oversaw cooking dinner. We made fajitas using strip steak from WHRI along with onions and bell peppers.

Wednesday morning Daniel and I cooked breakfast before we were split into our groups from the day before. Instead of helping with the camp, my group helped the livestock intern throughout the morning. First, we watered some of the crops in the garden before moving pallets and debris from an area so that we could learn how to humanely kill and process chickens that afternoon. After removing the debris, we loaded scrap metal onto a trailer so that it could be transported to a dump. Finally, we took apart a structure that had collapsed in one of the pastures.

That afternoon we learned about the correct way to kill and process a chicken. I was able to get hands-on experience with plucking the feathers and gutting the chicken.

One of the most impactful moments of the trip for me was Wednesday night. That night we participated in a hunger feast.

Our group along with some of the WHRI interns was split into three categories; one person represented the top 10% of the population in terms of wealth, two represented the top 20%, and seven people represented the remaining 70% of the world’s population. The

top 10% had a waiter attending to them, given the choice of grilled chicken or steak, multiple options for dessert had access to multiple types of drinks, and were in an air-conditioned room where they could not see anyone else. I was a part of the group representing the top 20% and we sat at a table and fed rice, black beans, and sweet potatoes. The final group sat on the ground, the only water they had was potable but dirty from being used to clean potatoes, and had to share a small pot of rice amongst themselves. One of the things about this that really stuck with me was seeing every item that the 10% didn’t choose end up straight in the trash, but they were unaware of this. It really hit home because it made me realize just how much food I waste. Sky explained to our group that the purpose of this was to show that we often waste much more food than we think.

Overall, this was such an awesome experience getting to learn a ton about the benefits of sustainable agriculture and ways that I can make an impact. I loved being out there and getting the chance to work outside. This experience was very beneficial, especially the hunger feast. The hunger really opened my eyes to a lot of things and resulted in a lot of self-reflection. I thought very hard about the amount of food I was and how lucky and privileged I am to not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. Now my goal is to do my best to make a positive impact on others and hopefully make sure that they can learn about the importance of these things.

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