Sydney Janeway, an Intern from University of Washington’s Carlson Center’s Undergraduate Community Based Internship (UCBI) Program, spent almost six months with HIP early this year, specifically focusing on our Healthy HIP Packs program. In this story she reflects on her experience working at HIP and what she took away from her experience here.
I decided to take my first nutrition class on a whim at the University of Washington. It was the only class that fit my schedule and having witnessed my mom completely change her diet to help treat her cancer and a degenerative eye disease, I wanted to learn more about the power of food. What I didn’t know is that that introductory class would interest me so much that I would decide to pursue a minor in Nutritional Sciences.
As I immersed myself in the courses, I discovered there was a lot more to nutrition than the different food groups, and one of the biggest things we kept coming back to was the topic of hunger.
Hunger is really hard to study, because it is so invisible. For the most part, you can’t look at someone and see that they are hungry. On top of that, people are reluctant to admit that they are hungry because of the associated stigma and shame. As a result, it is really easy to believe hunger doesn’t exist if you tell yourself that. And unless you are struggling with food access yourself, you assume that everyone has enough to eat — I know I certainly did.
Though I read about hunger in my textbooks, the impact and pain of it didn’t sink in because I had never known someone who was food insecure. That all changed though with my internship at Hunger Intervention Program. I came face to face with the reality of hunger at my first Senior Meal, when nearly a hundred people packed into the makeshift dining room for a hot meal. The crowd that gathered represented all walks of life. Some were old. Some were young. Some worked full time but lived below the poverty line. Some didn’t have a home. But all of them had one thing in common — they were food insecure.
During my six months at HIP, I learned to appreciate how complex hunger is. There are a variety of reasons someone doesn’t have enough nutritious food to eat and as a society we are reluctant to ask for help. Due to this, tackling the issue of hunger must be multifaceted — which is exactly what HIP aims to do through providing meals, HIP Packs, cooking classes, advocacy and more.
My time at HIP also taught me that hunger is an example of a bigger philosophy I have about life, which is that you will never know a person’s story or what they have been through unless you ask them and open up to them about yourself. Over the course of this internship, I’ve had countless conversations with co-workers, HIP volunteers and those in the Lake City community. As I’ve learned more about the amazing people surrounding me and shared my own experiences, we’ve all grown closer — which I argue is essential to making a meaningful impact. It is also why it’s so hard to leave this internship now. Thank you, Hunger Intervention Program, for teaching me about hunger. I’m excited to bring this insight back into the classroom and wherever life takes me.