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Kelly Walker

This is the last installment of “For the love of food, agriculture, and the environment,” a monthly column by the UK Food Connection Intern, Kelly Walker. Click here for last month’s column.

Where to begin. Just like most everything else during this pandemic, this series of articles has not gone as planned. If anything, this pandemic has given me a unique perspective on food and our relationship with its origins, preparation, and consumption.

It seems that one of the many silver linings of the coronavirus is the light it’s shed on disparities and faults that already existed but have been exacerbated by this state of emergency. These facets of our society that already weren’t quite right have now been placed under a magnifying glass, and all of these imperfections are reflected in our food system. My hope is that this will remain evident post-pandemic and that future ambassadors are preparing for the battle we face in the aftermath.

In the meantime, my hope for you is that you find peace in the small things. One of those things for me is food. How wonderful it has been to have a column dedicated to this topic as I simultaneously stretch and grow in this area that can involve every topic you can think of, from science to art.

As I approach one of the strangest graduations in history, I find myself reflecting on the process it’s taken me to get here. I never would have imagined that I’d enjoy cooking or gathering the best local ingredients as much as I do now. The growth I’ve experienced the last couple of years in this area is astounding, and partial credit is due to my time at the University of Kentucky.

During my short two years here, I quickly found my people who have constantly supported, and even paved the way in some instances, my lifelong drive to see and experience as much as possible. I’ve been blessed with a combination of privilege and earned opportunities that have allowed me to experience more than I could have dreamed of at this point in my young life. In addition, above and beyond support and resources provided by the faculty and staff in my degree program has gifted me with the invaluable freedom to explore so many different career paths. All of these things, in one way or another, have nurtured my heart for people and the planet, and I subsequently view food through that lens.

I’d like to send off this column with a similar sentiment to my “A call to return to home-cooking” article. My biggest takeaway in my journey to better understand the nuanced issues associated with food systems is that a deeper connection with your food at home will instill a foundation of curiosity that will lead you to the next questions.

Food can be so much more than something you just eat to get through the day. If you’re finding yourself with extra time on your hands in the last month or so, try making something from scratch that you never before considered. You might be surprised with how therapeutic and satisfying it can be. Join the homemade bread craze happening right now. What are some of your favorite processed or packaged snacks or desserts? Pop-tarts? Ice cream? This is my new favorite question that helps me get inspired when searching for new recipes.

Next question. Can I get any of these ingredients locally? Is there a bulk option at Good Foods that I can load up in my own jar? Should I opt for organic or fair trade options over others? Should I buy from this sustainably-branded company or this local one? Once you’re following these stepping-stone-questions, I know I’ve succeeded. This is where I leave you.

Peace, love, security, joy ––– Kelly