Community Voices - Alan Mitchell

Posted by Enzo Cabili
Enzo Cabili
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on April 10, 2014 in Community Voices

Alan MitchellAlan Mitchell is Oberlin Community Services’ Food Coordinator and an active Oberlin resident, exemplary in his care for others. Alan grew up in Oberlin and after being away for a decade, during which time he attended college and serving in the Navy, he returned to raise his family in an environment he feels can teach his kids essential values.

Q: What word(s) or image(s) would you use to describe Oberlin:

The words I would use are: Forward thinking. In terms of images, having grown up here, I always think back to the architectural piece, right there on the corner of professor and college: It’s those railroad tracks that run directly into the ground that symbolize the Underground Railroad.

Q: Some people use the word “sustainability” to mean actions that enhance/maintain the economic, environmental and social welfare of the Oberlin community. What does sustainability mean in your life?

Not losing ground, economically or socially in terms of the degradation of values and friendship networks, and also being able to re-instill the values that we’ve kind of lost in our society: conservation, recycling, composting.

Q: What actions are you engaged in that relate to sustainability?

We are actively trying to educate all of our clients so that they have a role in the local food system in terms of being producers as well as consumers. We are a zero waste partner and recycle all different kinds of products that come in.

We are also able to redistribute some of the wealth [in the community], because we use OCS as a space to donate items. Working primarily as a Food Distribution Coordinator I can tell you that usually most of the food that we get has not been planted with the intention of coming to OCS in order to redistribute to those in need*...It comes to us and we buy it within seconds, putting to use things that would otherwise not be usable. And we are able to help people to live by giving them those items.

*Stay tuned for Oberlin Community Services’ Plant an Extra Row campaign this Spring!

Q: Any advice for your fellow community members regarding care for the environment/sustainable living and respect for nature?

In the work that I do, just personally, the values that I think are important: I’d love for more people to care more about food and shelter, because they are things that may not be human rights but they are human needs, and they are things that we could probably do a better job at helping people to achieve, because these are our neighbors, these are our friends. Food is the area that I’m working in right now, and there’s a huge need, the social safety net is broken, and it’s not as if we’re going to fix that all by itself. We’ve got to recognize it and work at it, so it’s a challenge that we should take on.

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