Interview and Photo by Carolyn Eicher
Welcome Susan! Please tell us about yourself and your background:
My name is Susan Singley and I am incredibly happy to be the new Program Manager for GleanSLO! I recently relocated to SLO County from Fort Collins, Colorado. Simply put, my passions are community and food! I have had many incredible opportunities to work, learn and live in great places, with great people, and couldn’t be happier to have landed in San Luis Obispo County.
Most recently, I was working for a Food Bank, handling local food donations (including farms, gardens and gleanings) at the Food Bank for Larimer County. I have a Master’s in Sociology from Colorado State University and did my undergraduate work in Sociology and Psychology at California University of Pennsylvania (It’s in a little town called California, PA, which was a Pittsburgh-area steel boom town, no relation to the UC or CSU system!).
When and how did you hear about GleanSLO? What interests you about the work we do?
I learned about GleanSLO by accident! I was researching the Food Banks in the Central Coast and reading more about the work they do, just to get a feel for where I might fit if I moved here. When I found out about GleanSLO and the SLO Food Bank, and after reading the mission and vision I said out loud, “That is exactly what I want to be doing!” The Program Manager position was not posted at the time, but when I checked back a couple weeks later, it was, and I sent out my resume and cover letter the next day. I’m really attracted to the gleaning movement because of all the needs that it meets for the community. Gleaning meets immediate food needs for those struggling to make ends meet for their families. But that is just the beginning. It also meets needs for people who want to help out and get connected to the land and just help out in some way – human beings have a strong need to feel deeply connected to the earth and to each other. And the act of gleaning is a very fulfilling for people who do it. Gleaning also meets needs for farmers and backyard growers who invested time and resources into the food they grew.
Every grower I’ve ever met has one thing in common – they want to see their food eaten and not have their efforts go to waste!
The fact that the food is there – it’s being grown and resources are being invested in it – is incredibly motivating to me. I believe that it is unacceptable that thousands of people (1 in 6 people in SLO County) struggle to put food on the table, while an estimated 58 million pounds of food goes unharvested.
Please tell us about the work you did in your last job. Anything that you hope to incorporate into your position at GleanSLO?
The deeper issues of poverty and inequality are complex, but there is one thing I have been convinced of since starting this work: I believe that hunger is a solvable problem. Communities can come together to help meet needs of our most vulnerable populations, just by gathering the food that is already out there.
My last job involved working with all of the Food Bank for Larimer County’s local food donors – retail/grocery stores, food manufacturers, as well as farms, farmers markets and backyard gardeners. I had been working really hard to build relationships between growers and backyard gardeners with that Food Bank, and part of the impact of that was helping change the community’s perspective on what a Food Bank does. There is still sometimes an outdated idea that a Food Bank is a musty old food pantry full of outdated cans! Modern Food Banks are amazing fresh food rescue organizations with a lot of logistical expertise! Food Banks across the country have worked incredibly hard to build their own capacity and that of partner agencies to distribute fresh produce, dairy, meat and other healthy, nourishing foods. The push for fresh food in Food Banks is driven by respect for the needs of our local families. If we really want to help, we need to provide them the best food possible to help nourish their lives.
I love helping growers and gardeners realize that they are making a real difference for people in need.
Do you have any ideas about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community? How can we improve our work and our reach?
There is so much potential for GleanSLO. The founders, Steering Committee, staff and volunteers have done an incredible job of building a strong and sustainable program. I’m so impressed with everyone I’ve met here! I see the potential for community connections increasing as we see where the greatest needs are and how we can keep our program grassroots and flexible enough to see what the needs are and how to meet them. I definitely think there are more opportunities to partner with farms and do farm gleans more often, so I’ll be looking into how we can keep making those connections. I think our Neighborhood Harvest Leader program is a great way to empower our volunteers and expand our reach, and hope to see us training more harvest leaders as well. I think it’s important to take time to grow thoughtfully so I will be taking a lot of time to get settled in and find out where the community feels we need to focus next.
Will you share one of your favorite recipes?
I’m a huge fan of cooking in large batches (often over the weekend) and saving time on weeknights when I have less time to cook. I love making simple dishes like sautéed greens and roasted roots. When I’m looking for new ideas, I love www.101cookbooks.com and www.smittenkitchen.com.
Carrots are one of my favorite foods, and the recipe below is one of my favorite ways to make them if I’m feeling like making something special. This is a dip/spread that I loved buying from the deli at the Fort Collins Food Cooperative. My friend Adam was also a huge fan and he asked the co-op for their recipe, so here it is:
Spicy Thai Carrot Insanity
First, shred about 1.5 pounds of carrots in a food processor and set aside.
Then mix up the following ingredients in the food processor:
2 cups peanut butter
1 cup peanuts
1 little jar of red curry paste
¼ cup (or to taste) tamari
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup organic coconut milk
2 cloves garlic mashed up
About an inch of ginger, mashed up with the garlic in the food processor
¼ c dried basil
1 small bunch of scallions, sliced thin
1-2 colored bell peppers, chopped
The pre-shredded carrots from above
Mix one more time in food processor and add whatever you need to get it to a texture you like. Enjoy in sandwiches, as a dip, with crackers, or by the spoonful!