As a Penn State student in my second year of school, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my summer — economic analysis or business development with a large consulting firm or defense contractor. I wanted to see the world, experience new things and grow professionally. Most of all, I wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Little did I know at the time, my ambitions would soon be fulfilled through an internship at a local organization in York. Through word of mouth and email, I became aware of a summer internship at the York County Food Bank. I applied and began to realize the opportunity could not be passed up, as it was a chance to use my economics expertise and practice my Spanish language skills. I recently completed the 10-week business development internship, and I can proudly attest that my role considerably helped the food bank and local community while exposing me to a huge need in York County — the need for food. Ultimately, my experience rid me of my former ignorance about food insecurity, challenged me to leave my comfort zone and taught me how easily you can help your neighbors get enough food each day. Growing up in a middle-class, suburban environment in southern York County, I rarely saw homeless people on the street or heard of families that did not have enough food to eat. I assumed people were able to get the food they needed; I didn’t know any differently.
My church organized food drives in support of the food bank, but I never truly understood the extent of the hunger problem until working here. This summer, I frequently researched food statistics to support grant proposals and began to realize the dire consequences of malnutrition and food all the time, or that many children in the city go hungry over the summer when not in school. My conversations with food bank recipients reinforced that many people are only one paycheck away from needing food assistance.
My various responsibilities at the food bank compelled me to step outside my comfort zone and interact with people who have different backgrounds than me. I helped distribute food during our weekly Food for Families program, reached out to local businesses with funding requests and interviewed people for a marketing campaign. These tasks showed me that the people who are served by the food bank are just like you — they have families, jobs and similar goals in life.
I learned not to pre-judge someone based on his or her need for food or other essentials. While you may not wish to encounter people who desperately need help, I have found that these people are often the most sincere and loving individuals you will meet.
Lastly, my internship taught me that seemingly small actions in life make a huge difference and often times make the biggest difference in a situation. Whether it be volunteering, donating money, hosting a food drive, praying or just liking the food bank’s Facebook page, every action has an impact. The York County Food Bank is revamping its business approach, partnering with more food pantries and closets across the county and encouraging everyone to pitch in and help to end hunger in York.
I can speak from personal experience that your donation, volunteering, or social media sharing will go a long way in helping out your neighbors. I challenge you, as readers, to contemplate your role in the community. My time with the food bank has been very positive, and I am grateful for the professional skills and exposure I acquired. While I used to wonder if I could affect the community for the greater good, my internship proved that giving back, however you choose, instills in you a greater purpose and does make a difference!