This summer, I worked at HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects) as the Local Food Access Intern. HOPE assists low income individuals in Addison County in identifying and securing the necessary resources to meet their basic needs. HOPE’s food shelf is the largest in Addison County and serves over 600 people every month. Some of the food HOPE provides its clients is donated by local farms and stores.
As the Local Food Access Intern, I helped my supervisor, Lily Bradburn, do on-farm pick-ups and gleans, plan and teach cooking workshops, prepare educational materials on local food, and organize other outreach efforts.
During my ten weeks at HOPE, I came to better understand the realities of poverty in this county. I learned about the complexities and contradictions of nonprofit work — for example, the constant struggles of finding a balance between helping people and helping them help themselves, of avoiding telling people what they need in place of asking them, and of budgeting an organization’s limited budget fairly. All of this forced me to question some of my beliefs about poverty and poverty relief efforts, and to rethink how I approach nonprofit work.
As a result of my work, I now feel more in tune with the local food system and local community. I was able to experience first-hand how the many organizations in and around Middlebury work together to address issues like poverty, homelessness, and hunger. I got to see and hear about the struggles many farmers are facing and their efforts to overcome them, as well as their great achievements and contributions to the community.
My internship gave me the opportunity to break out of the Middlebury College bubble, and to connect with and learn from many individuals doing inspiring and important work in the county. I am so grateful for Lily and all the other wonderful staff at HOPE, for FoodWorks director Sophie Esser-Calvi, for Tiffany Sargent, James Davis, Rachel Roseman and Liz Cleveland at the CCE, and for all the other FoodWorks and Privilege & Poverty Interns for shaping my summer in Middlebury.