Monday, April 10, 2017

Meet Alicia, our SNAP Outreach Intern!

Alicia Walker, a senior at Central Connecticut State University, is interning in Foodshare's SNAP Outreach office. "It's funny I ended up here," she said with a smile. Her family has a history of volunteering in the fight against hunger. Her grandparents have been driving food trucks, doing retail pick-up, and volunteering with their community churches for as long as she can remember. Her grandfather won United Way Volunteer of the Year in 2015.

She grew up in New Britain, and even when she attended Catholic schools as a child, she "could still tell the difference" between children who attended on scholarships and the ones who didn't. When she started at a public high school, the distinction was more obvious. Alicia never really thought about free school meals before learning New Britain schools as a whole qualify for free lunches.

“It wasn’t an issue to me until I saw it, and then I was like, ‘Wow! They only come to school in the morning, get fed and then they go home.’ That could be their only meal of the day. You never really think about it until you see it in front of your face.” 

She began helping her grandparents with retail pick-up and was shocked as she handed out boxes of donated food. She believes her experience living and volunteering in New Britain shaped her desire to become a social worker. Her parents had the resources to raise her and feed the household, but now that she’s older and about to live on her own, she’s beginning to see where it could be difficult to pay the bills.

On top of her internship and full-time studies, Alicia also maintains her nearly 10-year employment as a part-time customer service coordinator. She says the position taught her patience and leadership, qualities that are useful as a SNAP Outreach intern.

Alicia's internship is focused on getting our hungry neighbors to SNAP Outreach sites. She makes sure that clients are comfortable and prepared, locating a site near them. She explained that one-on-one contact is often easier than standing in line. Part of her role is reaching out via email to people who asked for more information online. She also supervises our volunteers when they are on site. Alicia is considering becoming an eligibility worker after being inspired by her Foodshare experience.

She sees a stigma around signing up for SNAP benefits in her own group of friends. She offers to sign them up and support them as they "do it together." One thing she's learned from fighting food insecurity?

“It’s not who you think it is. It’s anybody… you never know when you’re going to lose your job. This could happen to literally anybody. You have money for a month maybe if you plan well, and then what do you do? And that’s when we get the phone calls.” 

In her free time, Alicia pursues her passions of baking and cooking and plays with her dog. She is also interested in traveling after a trip to Niagara Falls last summer.

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