Food: The common ground that links us all

Many, many times during my time in Vietnam I had people say to me "Same, same, but different". This phrase was a way for people to explain something I didn’t fully understand by providing some context using something I did understand. I couldn’t believe how often is was used. The more I heard this phrase the more I realized how much it helped me understand cultural and geographic differences. I also realized after some time that I wished the emphasis was switched. I wished it was "different, but same, same" to put the final focus on our similarities instead of our differences.

As our work together progressed throughout my Fellowship visit I saw more and more similarities between our two organizations and our two countries. Both organizations have similar goals and encounter similar challenges in achieving those goals. These challenges are often as numerous as our goals, but our partnership is quickly showing that it can help overcome these challenges in many ways. This would not be possible without the help of the US State Department’s YSEALI Program as well as the University of Montana Mansfield Center. Because of this program, two organizations with similar goals and challenges that were half a world away from each other are now close partners. Partners that can now work together to solve issues that affect both communities, as different as they may seem, in similar ways. Our connection has led to sharing on a level that will give each organization the tools to deal with new challenges that inevitably lie ahead.

So, as our situations are different in many ways, including culture, geography, and climate, many of the goals and tools to achieve these goals are "same, same". And the common denominator which is always "same, same" is food. We all have to eat! Everyday, multiple times a day! And the choices of what we eat affect our world in many drastic ways, from water quality to workers’ rights, food choices are an amazing way to flex your social and consumer muscle. And the creation of a healthy food system always comes back to the same principles wherever it exists on our planet, sustainability, community development, and integrated partnerships.

As our partnership(s) grow in the future, I believe we will continue to see that we are all more alike ("same, same") then we are different, and that will help us more than anything to create a more resilient, sustainable world for future generations. And food and eating (and growing food) will be the basis of that "same, same" partnership, something we all do everyday.

Jason Mandala
Farm to School Director
Garden City Harvest


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