Connection through Activism
“My name is Ayisha Christina Stucker-Gassi, everyone knows me by Christina. I grew up in the Treasure Valley and I love Idaho.”
Christina lives in Meridian, Idaho. She mentors youth transitioning out of juvenile correction centers.
Christina has been a member of Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC) since 2014. She is co-chair of the IORC Ag and Food Task Force. She has held this volunteer position since 2016 and is passionate about the work IORC does. She is a food system reform advocate.
“I’m sharing my story partly because I’ve been with IORC for a long time and because stories are so powerful and I think that a lot of times they don’t get told...especially in our fast-paced society. It’s nice to take a moment and reflect back and share it with others,” said Christina.
Christina has a deep connection to wholesome food and access to food due to her family. “I come from a long line of family farmers. I can trace my roots back to Irish on one side. They came over and were tenant farmers, so never really owning their own land but always being very deeply rooted to the soil -- salt of the earth kind of people. I was taught how to garden by my grandmother when I was very young. She was able to feed a family of ten on an acre of land, and they had a functioning dairy, and they had field crops.”
The work Christina does today with IORC helps her connect to her interest in agriculture and to her family. “This is how I connect back to my ancestors. I feel like it’s a good place for me.”
Christina got involved with IORC as a sophomore at the College of Idaho. While studying policy and economics, she became interested in environmental studies. “I got involved with the Real Food Challenge, which organizes youth around increasing the amount of real food bought on college and university campuses." Through that organization, Christina found her way to IORC.
To Christina, IORC is a way to connect to her community and the issues she cares about. “Not just a local community but also regionally, nationally and globally around our food system and thinking about it not just in a stagnant way but in a really diverse and multi-faceted way and really based on doing things. So I’m not just sitting around. I’m not just worrying with myself but I have other people and we can go out and be productive and proactive and not just reactive. Just building that community and that power around issues that can transform the larger society.”
Christina’s interest in policy started with issues surrounding food stamps. “I started researching the program to bring food stamps or electronic benefits to farmers markets and promoting that as a way to increase the access of healthy, fresh produce to low-income Americans.”
The Food and Ag Task Force was founded due to all of IORC’s campaigns around food issues. “We had the cottage food campaign, we had the grocery tax campaign and then a few others regarding increasing local food consumption and making it easier for meat producers, both poultry and red meat, to find a way to butcher that was economically feasible.”
The grocery tax campaign aims to stop the tax on food in Idaho. Idaho is one of 15 states with the tax. The campaign was unsuccessful in passing legislation in 2017, but IORC is working to repeal the tax this year. The grocery tax ultimately dissuades consumers from purchasing food in Idaho. Idaho has seen many boarding communities choose to purchase food in neighboring states to avoid the mark up on food. This hurts local food producers.
IORC’s work in their cottage food campaign was successful, allowing home producers to sell food from their home. “Cottage food is loosely defined as food made in a non-commercial kitchen. So now there’s a standardized metric to allow for any cottage food producer in Idaho to be held to the same standard and that helps because before, there was a patchwork across the seven health districts. So now, if there’s a producer who lives in one district but they’re selling in a different district or something like that, they don’t have to question whether or not their product is legal and they can be selling in that district. It also helps with starting up these cottage food industries and the homegrown prosperity that comes with that.”
Overall, Christina says Idahoans are supportive of local producers. “I think that there’s a lot of movement towards increasing the amount of food that’s grown and consumed locally but I definitely know that we could do better. There’s restaurants and consumers that are supporting producers through CSAs [Community Supported Agriculture], so buying shares up front and getting their produce all season long and supporting the farmer and having that as a way of the farmer having an income upfront to start the season. It’s definitely growing. We have more farmers markets [in Idaho] than we ever have before and that’s been increasing over the last decade.”
Christina supports local food for a plethora of reasons. “I want to have a vibrant local food economy that can support both producers and processors and distributors and good restaurants and knowing where my food comes from, of course, but also being able to see my hard earned dollar stay in my community and help make it a better place for people who want and choose to grow food and work in that industry to live and thrive as well.”