As the digital storytelling intern for the Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development, my main focus was to facilitate and document untold stories from the food system. My goal was to use this opportunity to amplify the voices of those who are often pushed to the margins of the food system. With this in mind, I recruited farmers and gardeners from partnering organizations and programs that Iowa Valley RC&D maintain and support, including the Global Food Project.
In an interview with one of the gardeners I recruited, Ayman Sharif, a Sudanese immigrant, explained that when he moved to the United States in 2013, he chose to focus on his education, earning an Environmental Policy and Planning bachelor’s degree and an Urban Planning master’s degree from the University of Iowa. Even after being in the U.S. for three years, Ayman found himself still eagerly wanting to be a part of the community. However, there were, and still are, social, political, and economic barriers that newly arrived citizens face which can make it difficult for them to integrate. Ayman shared how he loved to use food as an avenue to cultivate connections and believed that other newly arrived citizens could employ this approach as well, motivating Sharif to create the Global Food Project in 2016.
The connections that the Global Food Project fosters between residence of Iowa City and Johnson County are maintained through community garden plots that are located at the Johnson County Historic Poor Farm, which they received in 2017. In the same year, The Global Food Project became a 501c 3 nonprofit organization. At the beginning of 2020, The Global Food Project transitioned to being housed under the faith based nonprofit organization IC Compassion, whose mission is to engage culturally diverse communities. However, the organization was put on hiatus for the 2020 growing season due to COVID-19. This year, the Global Food Project was able to reinstate their program.
The Global Food project started with twenty families participating in their programs, which grew to forty families right before the COVID-19 hiatus. Seven countries of origin are represented within the organization, including the Sudan, Mexico, and the Congo. The Global Food Project provides resources and assistance for members to acquire sustainable gardening practices and access to land. The Global Food Project maintains a secure, supportive, and equitable environment for the residence of Iowa City and Johnson County to share their experiences and establish relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds.