Food System Work: Building Community Through Food

Part of the Carolina Creative Works staff blog series

Zene`thia Shipp is a recent NC A&T State University graduate and Greensboro resident who is actively involved in multiple food system projects in Guilford County. She serves as an apprentice to the Piedmont Triad Regional Food System project. She can be reached at community@carolinacreators.com

What’s one thing we wouldn’t know about you, Zene`thia? 

I have been vegetarian for over 8 years now and recently started my own business called Zenith’s Garden where I sell produce, herbs, house plants, etc., and provide landscaping services. 

Why are you interested in working in the food system? 

Before college I lived in an environment that had great food access. There were several grocery stores within a 5 mile distance and the food options were not limited. When moving to Greensboro to go to school I noticed such a big change in the access to food. There weren’t as many grocery store options and the proximity of them was far especially since I did not have a car the first 2 years of college. Also the location of the grocery stores near by were not the safest. This change really opened my eyes to the food system and why it varied by area.

It makes me angry that there are children who suffer because their parents can not afford to get access to better food options. Also I want more people to get involved in Urban gardening and growing their own food. There is not enough education surrounding agricultural and environmental systems. I want to fix it because I’ve allowed myself to change what’s going on in the food system and I feel it is my duty and responsibility to pass more knowledge on to others and help the community to evolve from food insecurity.

But: I love that I am able to learn about other groups of people who face similar disparities that I faced in college. I am able to expand my knowledge on the truth of the food system and give input on what I see needs to change and the things I like that are going on in certain counties. 

What’s your favorite part of working on this project? 

Coming into this apprenticeship fresh out of undergrad I did not know what career path I wanted to take. I just knew I wanted to influence others in agriculture and the environment. 

Along the way, the apprenticeship has shaped me in ways I didn’t know I needed. I learned how to work as a team and how to break my social shell. Coming in I was shy and just wanted to do what I was told. Now I am a part of presentations teaching the community about the food system and conducting interviews with people across the food system. I have met and networked with a lot of people and it has definitely brought me closer to my career goals. Not only have I joined a great team, I’ve also made a family. Once my apprenticeship is over my connections with them will not be, and that’s an experience I will never take for granted. 

What do you want to do after this? 

Currently I am running a community garden called Beloved and Faith Community Garden and I want to expand the garden to much more. I want to allow the people of the community who do not have growing space or a lot of access to food to be able to grow here at the community garden of little cost. I also plan to run my own farm by not only producing food and raising hens for eggs, but to also educate the youth on agricultural and environmental education. I would like to inspire them to want to become a part of a great change and possibly even make a career out of it.