What they don't tell you about City Faces is how much you learn from your mentees through simply being with them. As the spring semester of mentoring is coming to a close, I still distinctly recall the first time I met with my mentee, Toni, and brought her back from lunch at Panera Bread. Toni made a request to get some zebra cake snakes from a local gas station store. To me, zebra cakes are an unhealthy snack; I usually eat some raw veggies and hummus or a cup of fruit. Yet I realized that these foods I had always taken for granted because I had never lived in a food desert. I had a car that I could use to drive to go to the grocery store whenever I needed. However, Toni told me that her mom doesn't have a car and has to use metro transport to go to work. In order to get to a grocery store with fresh produce around Clinton-Peabody, you more than likely have to walk. Having an easy mode of transportation helps you reach past your immediate surroundings.
Good nutrition begins at a young age. I'm seeing this also when I work with kids at the Washington University Nursery School. During mealtimes, most of these kids, who reside in relatively affluent neighborhoods in Clayton, have balanced lunches filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains from stores like Trader Joe's. It is sometimes shocking to see the difference in food access between these three year olds and some of the kids in City Faces. Lifestyles are shaped through early exposure, but circumstances create inequalities. City Faces has helped me realize my own privilege, confront my own biases, and understand avenues through which I hope to seek change.
Helen Li, Mentor