Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Majors: Business Administration and Religion
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies
Why did you apply for this particular internship? As a business major I wanted to work with a large nonprofit organization. I wanted to learn how to apply my business education to the fight against poverty. The Food Bank of South Jersey was a perfect experience for me because they are currently greatly expanding the size of the organization.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? My work was focused on impact evaluation. I did three different surveys in order to evaluate a particular program offered by the Food Bank. Evaluating an organization is important in order for the business to be a success. I was able to break down the goals of the organization and the wanted outcomes in order to create a survey that accurately measures the program's impact. Also, in terms of poverty I saw the issue of how to make in impact in a community without controlling people. For example, is it the Food Bank's responsibility to tell a person how to eat? Also, I saw the negative affects of being food-insecure. Being in Camden, I saw an entire city struggling with the effects of poverty.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience? I did not realize how busy I would be. There are so many people in need and it is a constant job to serve four different counties in New Jersey. Plus, the Food Bank does much more than simply hand out food; the food bank provides services to better their participants' lives like nutrition education and help with the food stamps application process. Also, I did not think I would fall in love with Camden. I definitely want to do further work there.
Favorite W&L Activity: Going to Hull's Drive-in Movie Theater.
Favorite W&L Memory: Easter morning with my roommates. During the night one of roommates decorated our apartment for the holiday--it was wonderful. It is wonderful to have good friends. Also, I loved when Coach Boone from Remember the Titans spoke in the Stackhouse Theater.
Favorite W&L Events: Mock Convention and Parents' Weekend
I wake up at 5:30 in order to get on the 6:30 train. I cannot miss my train this morning because there is an 18-wheeler leaving the food bank at 7:00 that waits for no one.
Once I get on the train out of Camden, I am greeted with familiar faces. Each morning I say hi to fellow Camden residents that wake up early to leave Camden for work. Most of us, like myself, ride to Pennsauken, where there are several factories. Once we get to our stop we all get on a bus. The bus ride is free for all workers; this beats the thirty-minute walk. The bus driver has gotten to know me and I enjoy our morning conversations.
Once I arrive at the Food Bank I double check that the truck has not left without me. The trucks are on a tight schedule, with several stops to make and thousands of pounds of food to deliver. The warehouse is busy packing food at this early hour, but the offices are deserted. I go back into my office to pick up the paperwork for the Hope Mobile sites and the participants' survey.
The Hope Mobile is a mobile pantry that serves urban areas where food pantries are overpopulated, like Camden. The program also serves rural areas that have a lack of food pantries. The program provides donated food and government-provided food. Also, there are food demonstrations, food stamp outreach and different service opportunities.
I load my paperwork into the truck and wait for the driver to finish packing the food. We finally head off for an hour drive to the Hope Mobile site. This site is further out in the country.
Today, I will be handing out senior vouchers of twenty dollars, surveys, and helping with the food distribution. It is still cool because it is early, but I know it will heat up to the upper nineties by 10:00 a.m., so I try to do my work as quickly as possible.
We arrive at the site at 8:30; people have been there since 6:00 this morning in order to be first in line. The lines can be long and the day can be very hot. The problem is that the lines can be long because people show up several hours before the food even arrives. People are happy to see the truck pull up and we honk the horn a few times for fun. I love pulling up to the sites and unloading the food. I of course would much rather never have to know that people are skipping meals in order to pay bills. Knowing the depth of poverty is something difficult to face. I wish that there were no need for food banks.
This site has many volunteers from the community that are laying out the food so that people can choose what they want. I go through the line giving seniors twenty-dollar vouchers that they can use at the local farmer's market. I love this program because they are able to receive fresh produce and it helps local farmers. Some days I work at the farmer's market in Camden handing out these checks. I also buy produce for myself from this site.
Once I am done with that program, I walk back through the line and hand out surveys, clipboards and pens. The majority of people are happy and grateful to have the opportunity to fill out a survey. The survey asks the impact the program has had in their lives: for example, how many meals it provides and how the nutrition education improved. The survey also evaluates the participants' satisfaction with the food quality, variety and the organization of the sites. I am grateful when a person asks me to read the survey to them because I am able to spend time chatting with them about their needs, opinions of the program and their own life experience.
Today, a woman told me how it was her first time to this program because she and her husband recently lost their jobs. They have two kids and have never been in need before. She said that the face of poverty has changed because of the job market. I have observed this change over the summer. There are several first-time families who are reaching out to food banks that have never done so before.
I stay until the end of the distribution. Once the distribution time ends we load the extra food into a truck to go to a local food pantry. A volunteer drives me back to the Food Bank. Once back at the Food Bank I enter the survey results into Excel in order to analyze it once I visit several more sites. After getting up so early and standing in the heat, I am told to head home early.
I get back onto the bus and say hello to the afternoon crowd. Two people ask me why I looked so tired and hot. I feel tired, but I know that those who wait in the line every month to visit food pantries and have to go to social services to wait in more long lines are truly the tired ones.
I wait for the train back into Camden. Once in Camden, I find out that they are evacuating my building because there is no water. I am still so grateful for my opportunity to work at the Food Bank, meet new people, and learn about people's lives. Living in Camden and working at the Food Bank has been an eye-opening and wonderful experience.