The Pilot Light

Not Your Average College ‘Core’ Class

Photo by David Devine

By Sam Cliff,
Undergraduate, Creative Writing

Four years after receiving an Associate Degree, I returned to school to nurture my passion for writing. When I arrived at Naropa, I was excited to be immersed in a community of writers.

I expected to learn a lot from my literature classes. What I was not expecting was to be so inspired by Candace Walworth’s Community Based Learning and Action class (COR220), one of the required undergraduate courses at Naropa. COR220 exposed me to the Boulder that exists beyond campus (and downtown) and solidified an issue close to my heart.

One of the visitors to our class, Lindsey Lobergon, Program Director of Boulder Food Rescue brought food security back to the forefront of my attention.

Her visit resonated with me because issues surrounding food have been a primary interest for most of my adult life. My passion for food justice began In Burlington, VT in my early twenties when I was exposed to a culture that truly valued food and paid close attention to where it came from.

As a young adult new to cooking and buying food for myself, I hadn’t seriously considered my food consumption habits; but when I experienced the food scene in Burlington, all that changed. Seeing how beneficial locally-grown, nutritious food could be inspired me to take a job at the food co-op where I worked closely with local farmers by promoting and merchandising their produce.

Photo by David Devine

Burlington taught me the value of having a well-balanced diet and supporting local farmers. I feel that nutritious food should be available to all. It’s a basic human right that’s central to our needs, so I was shocked when Lindsey told our class about the amount of perfectly good fruit, vegetables, and packaged food thrown away by grocery stores and restaurants on a daily basis—while so many people go hungry.

I hadn’t realized just how much food is wasted by America’s throw-away culture. Though it was unsettling to learn about this waste, it was reassuring to learn that groups like Lindsay’s are working to distribute food that would otherwise be wasted to those who need it most.

We learned how Boulder Food Rescue has formed agreements with grocery stores and restaurants to pick up their excess food through the help of volunteers and bring it to people who are in need. I am grateful that I am able to continue to broaden my understanding of the food system. It’s clear to me now that food availability issues cannot be addressed without considering food waste.

Thanks to COR220, I learned a lot about facilitating change within a community and to honor the activist inside of me. Beyond learning about the problems of society, our class was provided with solutions and opportunities to volunteer with organizations around Boulder.

I left that class empowered, with a desire to actively participate in improving the world. Like most schools, Naropa requires its students to attend a number of core classes, but I doubt that many other schools’ core classes have been developed with the intention to broaden each student’s perspective and empower them to be proponents of change.

My COR220 classmates and I connected with community leaders, activists, and entrepreneurs helping to shape Boulder’s culture and community. Each interaction and class trip provoked rich conversations amongst us, resulting in a desire to deepen my participation in the Boulder community and sparking of ideas for how to integrate what I learned in other communities.

I am continually surprised by the connections I make through Naropa and am grateful that my academic, activist, and spiritual interests are encouraged to grow here.

Photo by David Devine