ASB’s Faith in Action tackles food insecurity in Baltimore

Colby’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is a program that allows Colby students the opportunity to take a spring break trip, volunteer their time, and explore issues of social relevance.

This year, the ASB Program’s Faith in Action trip was to Baltimore, Maryland and Washington D.C.. Dean of Religious Studies Kurt Nelson selected Baltimore as the central location due to the success of the ASB trip to Baltimore the previous year.  Aaliyah Bell ’17 said that the trip’s main focus was “on the issue of food insecurity in Baltimore, and how this connects to the corollary issues of poverty and race in the city of Baltimore. An important aspect of the journey was gaining a multi-faith perspective, which guided our work on this trip.” To Bell, this particular trip had special meaning, as she explained, “I chose to attend this trip, because once I saw Baltimore, bells went off in my head that reminded me of Freddie Gray and the large protest that was occurring in the city. It has been a year since the disgusting event and I had to get down there to see what the aftermath was. So it appealed to me way more than the other trips. I was also curious to see how faith and social movement intersected,” she said.

At the start of Spring Break, the student volunteers travelled to Baltimore, where they would spend the next eight days.  The group worked with several organizations in the region, including Our Daily Bread, Black Church Food Security Network, Baltimore Food Policy Institute, Center for a Livable Future, Farm Alliance, MD Food Bank, Pearlstone Center, and Bread for the World.  Working with the organizations gave the students a new perspective on the scope of food insecurity and the lives of those who experience it.  “What I learned is that food insecurity needs to be viewed and tackled from many angles and that all of those organizations, institutions, and communities can play a part. Also, just because someone is food insecure doesn’t mean they aren’t living a happy life. Who are we to put restrictions on that?” Bell said.

Though the trip focused on food insecurity in Baltimore, Colby students were also given the opportunity to attend an alumni dinner in Washington D.C.  They were also treated to a tour around the United States Capitol by Bill Hudnut, father of Chris Hudnut ’16.  “That was incredible because Bill was a Congressman in the year of 1974 during the Watergate Scandal with Nixon,” Bell explained.

This ASB Faith in Action trip intended to give students a fulfilling and perspective-changing experience.  For many students, it accomplished that goal, allowing for an educational experience on the affect of food insecurity and the steps that are being taken to stop it.  Because the trip covered the topic extensively in a short amount of time, the days were very packed.  As a result, Bell explained “It was very intersectional—how could it not be? One day we were working at Pearlstone, weeding and cleaning out the goat pens, while on another day we were speaking with Pastor Dr. Heber Brown on how black communities can become self-sustainable without non-profit assistance.”

For those who want to learn more about the ASB trip to Baltimore, the program is currently working on a video to shine more light on the experiences of students on the trip. ASB is a Colby tradition that continues year after year thanks to support and participation from the student body, and the group intends to continue the trips.

When asked if she would recommend it to other students, Bell said, “I would definitely encourage students to take an ASB trip, especially this one, because of the sense of community. I decided to let myself be vulnerable with my group and the complex issues that I was dealing with and I am so glad that I did. Reflection is important during Spring Break and this trip provides that. It is important because as we work so hard at Colby, there aren’t many moments to be able to reflect on your actions and your mental care.”

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