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Blog Action Day, Part 2

In her previous jobs — an environmental educator for the Wildlife Center of Virginia and the Philadelphia Zoo — Boston Schweitzer Fellow Caitlin Fritz (Clark University) visited schools and community groups to educate audiences about the conservation of wildlife (which is, she says, “deeply tied to slowing the rate of climate change”). Her work as a Schweitzer Fellow was an outgrowth of her previous experiences: Fritz collaborated with the Sullivan Middle School-Based Health Center, sponsored by Family Health Center of Worcester, to develop a community garden, along with a student group to manage the garden (the Beetle Juice Club).

“While the main focus of the garden and the student group was to increase plant-to-food connections as the first step towards promoting healthier eating habits within the school and community, everything we did in the garden featured an environmental undertone, including teaching other kids to care for the environment as part of the student created mission statement for the Beetle Juice Club,” Fritz says.

Discussions of climate change were frequent when the group discussed the origins of the food we eat. “Much of the intent of the garden was to get kids to eat things they can grow right in their own backyards, or find at farmers market’s in their community, instead of eating foods that have traveled from all over the world,” Fritz says. “Not only does growing your own food or buying local and in season produce ensure that the food is fresher and healthier for you, but it reduces the greenhouse gas emissions used in transporting foods from Chile, or Australia, or from other corners of the planet.”

The group internalized this concept — and even featured it in a YouTube video that they made and submitted to a Farm to Cafeteria contest on why their school should buy more locally grown produce.

Like her Schweitzer project, Fritz — who is currently job-searching — says that “much of what I am interested in doing is reflected in Schweitzer’s philosophy that our health is dependent on our planet’s health.” Motivated by a commitment to environmental justice issues that was solidified when she was an undergraduate environmental science major, Fritz is interested in creating healthy and sustainable communities — specifically, looking at the intersections of the urban environment, poverty, and health.

“That interest was further developed through my graduate work, in looking at the everyday environmental conditions that typically poor and minority populations are exposed to in our urban centers,” Fritz says. “These conditions include exposure to poor air quality, lead and other toxins,  a lack of access to green space, and food insecurity among other things. All of these conditions affect public health and burden a population that lacks the resources and access to obtain adequate health care.  My career goals are to focus on these issues whether through community organizing, furthering a career in nonprofit management with a community-based organization, or in a planning department focusing on how to develop and plan our cities with public health and environmental focus.”