Taking a deeper look at the
people behind Capital Roots
Rachel Hye Youn Rupright
What led you to your role as the President of Capital Roots’ Board of Directors?
Our Board of Directors has a pathway for officer positions, and I stepped into the role as President after serving as Vice President. This is my second year as Board President and I’m proud to serve through the end of this calendar year.
What are some of the responsibilities of this position and why are they important?
The Board President has a wide range of responsibilities – many of which are standard for any non-profit regarding finances, legal compliance, and long-term planning. Yet, I think some of the most important elements of being a successful President is tending to the relationships with fellow board members and our CEO, as well as supporting our staff members. It’s important to me that we work together for the shared success of this organization that we all love.
How does your social work background tie into your work with Capital Roots?
One of the perspectives in the social work profession is a “person in environment” approach, which believes that what people think and how we act are heavily influenced by our family, environment, and systems around us. I think that many of Capital Roots’ programs reflects this approach — and our work is often done through changing the greater environment — allowing people to make healthier choices easier. A great example is the Veggie Mobile, a traveling market where anyone can buy quality and affordable produce at convenient places
in neighborhoods where there aren’t any grocery stores.
What does a future of food security look like to you/how do you envision the future of food access?
To me, the future of food security looks beyond stigmatizing individuals and instead improves communities through a healthy regional food economy. I think we should be looking at our entire food system: who is growing it, processing it, how it’s distributed; and of course, how we are consuming and accessing food. It’s exciting to me that Capital Roots is doing some of this work already: through local zoning and land use efforts, support for small farms, changing the built environment in some cities, transportation, working with retailers, policy and advocacy, and above all, expanding our Urban Grow Center!
If someone was interested in getting involved with Capital Roots, what would you recommend?
Some of the best ambassadors for Capital Roots are volunteers! We have a many opportunities to volunteer ranging from being out in the community to office-type activities. If digging dirt on the youth-powered farm isn’t your thing, perhaps join a committee. We are always in need of friends to help plan our major events or lend your skills such as human resources or marketing for one of our committees.
Describe your background and how it led you to Capital Roots.
My background is almost entirely in musical theatre! It doesn’t seem like it would align with this line of work, but I find that I use my theatre training every single day even if I’m not actively “performing.” In college, I majored in theatre and education and have spent many years teaching and directing children’s theatre as well as performing in shows myself. As I progressed through school, I came to be very interested in the link between emotional wellness and the arts, leading me to pursue my certification as a yoga instructor. Capital Roots perfectly combines my interests in the worlds of theatre and wellness because I am able to incorporate singing and dancing into the Taste Good Series with young students while teaching about healthful topics like nutrition!
What’s a day like in your role?
Many days per week, I can be found at a local elementary school facilitating the Taste Good Series, which aims to teach kindergarteners, first, and second graders about fruits and vegetables in a fun and engaging way. When I’m not actively teaching, I might be packaging up fruits and vegetables for the kids to sample. I also do a lot of preparation work for community classes that happen with our partners! I’ve taught classes on Immune System Support, Cooking with Herbs, Cooking Seasonally, and offer classes on a wide variety of topics from yoga and mindfulness to gardening and cooking.
Name one of your favorite things about the Taste Good Series.
Seeing children get genuinely excited about fruits and vegetables will never get old. We use a scale for food rating where the students can say “Big Yum,” “Little Yum,” or “No Yum Yet.” Oftentimes, a student will assume they don’t like a food and will try and change their minds. I’ve heard a lot of kids say things along the lines of “I thought this was going to be No Yum Yet but it is actually a Super Big Yum!” It has been fascinating to see how framing the lessons to portray fruits and vegetables as something exciting will get the students right on board.
What do you hope the students you work with will take away with them?
Eating to nourish your body is so important! I would love for the students to look at healthy eating not as a punishment or something obligatory, but as something that can be really delicious and fun! So many people have a complicated relationship with food, and view eating healthfully as a chore. By instilling in children early that fueling our bodies with fruits and vegetables makes us feel amazing, we might be able to stop the negative association with these foods from forming in the first place.
What drew you to Capital Roots?
I love the mission. I think it’s really important for people to be able to have opportunities to access fresh food regardless of how much money you have in your pocket. My background is in agriculture and I worked for a long time as a farmer in New York City so I feel like I came full circle. It’s a nice blend of my past experiences- non-profit work and urban agriculture. I knew our CEO, Amy, and wanted to learn from someone doing this type of work for a long time and I know that Capital Roots grew tremendously over the last twenty years and I wanted to get a little insight into how that happens.
Can you describe your role at Capital Roots?
I have this awesome, eagle-eye perspective of the organization. I write grant proposals and funding requests to support all of our different programs from foundations, government entities and I work on the Community Engagement team which ties it together with our volunteer and fundraising efforts.
What has been one of the most poignant moments or highlights of your career here?
One of the highlights has been helping to set up exit interviews for the Produce Project students at the end of the summer. I started working on farms at a really difficult point in my life and I know that during that time, I developed a lot of self-confidence and gained skills that helped me find my path. Farming is really hard work, but if you show up and do your best, it can be an incredible outlet for relieving stress or for working through tough thigs going on in your life. So for me, having that experience as a young person and now, well into my professional career, being able to hear directly from the students about their experience in The Produce Project, and ways they think we can improve what we’re doing, is an incredible thing to be part of. It’s not something I expected I’d get to do as a grant writer, but then I can take the students’ responses, in their own words, and relay that back to our funders so they’re seeing the impact of this type of work on the lives of the students we work with.
What do you envision for the future of food access?
I think the future of food access involves not only increasing fresh food access points through existing retail, small businesses, but also finding ways to better support regional farmers, and connecting young, emerging farmers with land, resources and ready markets.