Volunteer of the Month: Allie Otroba | CUESA

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January 28, 2021

Volunteer of the Month: Allie Otroba

CUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Most of our regular volunteer opportunities are currently on hold with the exception of farmers market roles. Learn more about volunteering here.

CUESA volunteer Allie Otroba has been supporting CUESA’s programs at the Market to Table cooking demos pre-COVID, and CUESA’s Farmers Market Box program most recently. In spring 2019, she “was working long hours and traveling for my full-time job in the financial technology industry, and was craving to find connection outside of work.” She started volunteering to “tap into her passion for food and to find community.” 

“Allie has been a tremendous help to our CUESA Farmers Market Box program,” says Partnerships and Events Manager Rebecca Crawbuck. “We love having her sunny, helpful presence in the farmers market each week. She is always game to help out wherever we need it, from running to pick up orders from farmers to moving stacks of produce boxes across the market. Having consistent volunteer support on Saturdays like Allie’s is really what makes this program happen and we are truly grateful for her generosity.” Meet Allie.

CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?

Allie: After moving to the Bay Area in 2017 from Washington, DC, I was blown away by the farmers markets, independent restaurant industry, and culture that surrounded fresh, local food. I began shopping at the farmers markets and experimenting in my kitchen—and thus a new passion of mine began! I love to shop for ingredients and cook, and am an advocate for healthy and accessible food systems.

CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CUESA?

Allie: I’m currently a student studying integrative health and nutrition, and will be heading to grad school next year to study clinical psychology, aspiring to become a Mental Health Therapist. In my spare time, I love to cook, practice and teach yoga (I’m a registered yoga teacher), be outdoors, and spend time with my husband. After five years in the financial technology industry, I left my full-time job right before COVID hit and was blind to what this year had in-store. Through quarantine and the slower-paced lifestyle that followed, I found a deep connection to what interests me and what impacts my community, which led me to my current path.

CUESA: Why are you choosing to volunteer with us at this time?

Allie: I believe the lack of education and accessibility to nutritious foods is a public health crisis, and now more so than ever during this vulnerable, uncertain time. With CUESA not only operating farmers markets throughout the Bay Area to provide farmers and small businesses a platform to extend their reach, but also providing programs like Feed Hospitality and Market Match and educational programming like Foodwise Kids and Teens, this work directly supports addressing this crisis. I feel alive and humbled to help support one piece of the puzzle to our society’s overall well-being—food security and education.

CUESA: What does the farmers market community mean to you?

Allie: Volunteering on Saturday mornings is my happy time—I look forward to connecting with the CUESA team and volunteers, the farmers, and community members. This sense of togetherness—diverse backgrounds and stories, living and growing, experiencing the heartaches of pain or the celebrations of joy—is to me what community is. The feeling there is something bigger than yourself. The farmers market community makes me feel just that.

CUESA: Any favorite farmers market foods or home meal prep tips you want to share?

Allie: As we’ve been doing a lot more at-home cooking with the shutdown in the Bay Area, I have learned a crucial step to help ease the process—washing and prepping produce immediately after purchasing! This has quickened my meal prep game, and I find myself more often opening the fridge to pull out carrots or berries for a snack (versus a bag of chips) as they are ready to enjoy!

About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »