Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

Caitlin Magruder ’17: Changing Lives In The Gambia


CIA alumna Caitlin Magruder graduated from the college’s Bachelor’s in Applied Food Studies program in 2017 and set about changing the world. Working for the Peace Corps, she ended up in The Gambia, a small West African country known for its diverse ecosystems around the central Gambia River. Here she shares her experiences... 

Before graduating from the CIA, I decided that I wanted to have more of an impact on the world around me but still work with food. As an agricultural extension agent working with Peace Corps in The Gambia, I get the opportunity to do so, whether it be through teaching motivated community members how to sustainably improve agricultural production, supporting mothers in exploring healthier ways to prepare foods, or inspiring the youth to battle climate change through reforestation efforts.

The Applied Food Studies degree program gave me the tools to be an effective leader in my adoptive community by teaching me to observe the larger intricacies of the food system and understand why it operates the way it does. The faculty, through their coursework and subsequent discussions, pushed me to look deep to find solutions, reminding me that the way into the hearts and minds of my audience is to appeal to their interests, to be thoughtful when engaging within their culture, and seek a mutual understanding of respect. Everything, from the water we drink to the food we eat, is entrenched in our culture and I wouldn’t have been prepared to address the needs of this community without the lessons I learned at the CIA.


Caitlin Magruder Video
Watch as Caitlin walks you through what she’s doing in The Gambia.

Caitlin-Magruder-and-threeGambian-men-during-a-tree-planting exercise.
My three Gambian counterparts and I strike a pose during a tree-planting exercise.

Ciatlin Macgruder and a Gambian teen planting a tree
This is the cover of my future studio album on reforestation, if I ever release it!

Caitlin Lamin (left) and Abdoulie (right) after a day of harvesting corn.
My friends Lamin (left) and Abdoulie (right) join me after a day of harvesting corn.

Masaneh trains students about organic pesticides in their school garden
My agriculture extension worker counterpart, Masaneh, trains students about organic pesticides in their school garden.

Caitlin and Embrima with students
My counterpart Ebrima (middle, with sunglasses) hangs out with students after a lesson on deforestation, the importance of trees, and establishing tree nurseries.

Sarjo in a planting field
I teamed with another counterpart, Sarjo (pictured with arms raised), to demarcate each bed of this ground layout of the CBO I work alongside—Tumana Agency for Development—at the start of the gardening season.

Caitlin and students at a tree planting demo
I helped guide students through a tree-planting demonstration as part of a day-long celebration of Earth Day.

A woman in The Gambia learned the correct spacing of onions during a gardening training.
The women’s group of a nearby Fula village learned the correct spacing of onions during a gardening training.

Woman villagers during a hands on demo
Members of my village’s women’s group get hands-on during a demonstration of double-digging and soil amendments.


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