So You Want to Find a Food Internship: A Job-Seeking Guide

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The flood of newly-polished resumes and enthusiastic inquiries for a summer internship or full-time job is a telltale sign that a new year has arrived. I hate saying no but the fact is that ours is a culinary company. To work in the field of "sustainable, local food"—requested by undergraduates and mid-career jobseekers alike—one has to be a chef, cook, or café manager. The proof that a company really places a real value on food from owner-operated, small, local producers is that there aren't lots of sourcing jobs in the corporate office. That's what our chefs do in the communities where they work. But I'm unsatisfied responding without fruitful suggestions, so I turned to a talented and varied group of food professionals for ideas.

Volunteering for an organization in which one would hope to be employed is a time-honored approach in any non-profit field.

Besides volunteering to gain experience, participating in campus food issues and, of course, becoming a chef, what other thoughts could I share to help guide our next wave of food advocates? Here are some of my favorites:

1. The Congressional Hunger Center (www.hungercenter.org) offers two fellowship programs, one domestic and one international. The focus is on anti-poverty and anti-hunger work, but with a lot of opportunity to focus on food (in)security on both grassroots and policy levels, according to a current fellow who responded to my query. She further pointed out that the one-year domestic program accepts 20 fellows per year, and provides a more-than-adequate living stipend with excellent health care: "The program provides wonderful networking opportunities within the food security world and very enriching training on policy, advocacy, anti-racism, and food security." Joining FoodCorps (http://www.food-corps.org/), an offshoot of AmeriCorps, is another option if setting up school gardens is your passion.

2. Two websites are specifically dedicated to helping job seekers. Sustainable Food Jobs (http://sustainablefoodjobs.wordpress.com) posts job listings from organizations, farms, and restaurants, and also identifies related educational programs. Katherine Gustafson wrote about SFJ on Change.org : "You know a movement has really arrived when there's an entire Web site dedicated to jobs in that area." Good Food Jobs (www.GoodFoodJobs.com) also lists jobs, hosts a blog with career advice, and profiles people. The founders do lots of talks and panels providing job advice. On their weekly newsletter they answer common job and career related questions. Idealist (www.idealist.org) was also recommended.

3. Become a farmer. What better way to contribute to changing how people appreciate what they eat? Kellogg Food & Society Fellow Fred Bahnson wrote me: "We need far more people on the land than we currently have. The apprenticeship model is really the best way to learn any trade or craft, and farming is no exception. Every state has farms doing this. It just takes asking at your local farmers market to find out who hosts interns." I've met a lot of farmers in their thirties recently—many of them taking over from their parents—and it's very encouraging. They're exploring new ways of doing what their parents never questioned. But if farming isn't your inheritance, an internship or apprenticeship is a likely place to start. Some sites exist to help new farmers succeed including the delightful www.thegreenhorns.net, www.serveyourcountryfood.net, and www.farmschool.org.

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Helene York is the director of strategic initiatives for Bon-Appetit Management, an onsite restaurant company based in Palo Alto, California.

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