Featured Fellow: Khari Graves

What are your organization and title?

I am a Youth Leadership Coordinator/ Farm to School Consultant for The Food Trust in Philadelphia, PA.

Where did you attend college and what did you study?

I got my BA in Philosophy from Millersville University.

Can you summarize the work you do at your fellowship?

As a Youth Leadership Coordinator, I help to establish and maintain in-school programming for middle and high school students in Philadelphia public and charter schools geared around health, wellness, and food systems. As a member of our farm to school team, I help educate schools, communities, and individuals on the benefits, both nutritional and academic, of farm to school programming. I also provide information on farm to school happenings in Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic region as a whole and help advocate for statewide farm to school policy.

What brought you to nonprofit work?

Growing up with a mother in the culinary industry and a dad that couldn’t cook at all, I always loved cooking and knew the benefit of being able to cook, especially for yourself. I knew I always wanted to somehow work with food but knew I wanted to do so in a way that could benefit people that don’t have the money to pay $50 + for one meal. Given this, I decided I wanted to help people get great food at an affordable price.

However, I soon realized that allowing people to have great restaurant food did little to combat the fact that many people (and entire under-served communities) don’t even have decent, fresh food on a daily basis for them and their families. This, coupled with my academic background in philosophy, particularly ethics, led me to begin pursuing food justice.

In food justice, I saw a way to not only work with food but to use food as a means of socio-economic empowerment and liberation for some of the city’s most marginalized and disregarded people and communities. Before even learning about the fellowship, I knew I wanted to work closely with The Food Trust, a locally and nationally renowned nonprofit and leader in the food justice movement, as it would give me a chance to fight for everyone’s right to healthy and affordable food at a local level in my hometown and nationally.

What was the most exciting thing you did in your first month/first year at your organization?

Our HYPE Middle School Summit. It was the first major project I worked on at The Food Trust, and one of the most important events of the calendar year. Seeing how excited and engaged the youth were truly made all the hard work leading up to the event worth it.

What’s one thing you did in the first month of your fellowship that you recommend all new nonprofit employees do?

I’d recommend that all new nonprofit workers ask a more senior co-worker what the most important/their personal favorite book is about the type of work your organization does, and read it. It will give you a deeper understanding of your organization’s mission in a broader context than you may see at the moment.

What advice do you have for current college seniors as they begin their job search?

I would advise seniors to apply fearlessly when it comes to jobs. Given the big societal focus on GPAs and test scores and the fact that you’ll soon be stepping out into the unknown post-grad “real world”, one’s final year of college is often a time of great anxiety and self-critique. Many times this stops students from applying for awesome jobs and other opportunities they’re interested in because they feel like their performance in college doesn’t qualify them. I would advise seniors to pursue these opportunities anyway, and at least give themselves a chance for a job they truly want.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your city when you have a free evening?

I love going to see live music. Whether it’s a major artist in a big venue, small scale bar performances, or DIY house shows, catching a live performance is one of my favorite things to do.

If you had to decide today, what would you do after you complete your Fellowship?

If I had to decide today, I would choose to continue working here at The Food Trust. The opportunity to work in the field I’ve always wanted to with an organization widely considered to be an authority and one of the leaders in food justice, is one I truly treasure.

Khari Graves is an FAO Fellow at the Philadelphia Food Trust. He provides support to HYPE councils throughout the city and works on various local farm to school initiatives and projects including the Philadelphia School District’s Harvest of the Month program.

PHOTO: Julia Manzerova, Creative Commons