By Gabrielle Gilliam-Harris, Service Learning Scholar
You know the feeling you have as a freshman in college on your first day of classes? You leave for your first class and you find yourself desperately trying to recall everything from your campus tour. Thank goodness for your amazing RA who sees you struggling and comes to bring you a map and help you navigate this new experience. On my first day interning at the Food Bank of Delaware I learned that feeling was not an isolated incident, but something I was currently revisiting, and would be faced with many times in life. Thank goodness for my supervisor, Matt Talley (Talley) providing such awesome guidance and support.
My name is Gabrielle Gilliam-Harris and this summer I was a Service-Learning Scholar at the Food Bank of Delaware. My task this summer was to create a SNAP Helpline for the SNAP Outreach Program. I expected to come in and essentially be told what to do, but that is not what happened. Talley simply sat down with me and we talked about why the helpline was so important and specific goals that he needed the helpline to accomplish. I was treated like a team member rather than an assistant, which I really appreciated. Talley gave me a lot of creative freedom, which scared me at first. However, I see now, it was a mix of that very freedom and the events that we went to that taught me the richest lessons this summer.
Going to outreach events at several locations showed me the variety of services and outreach approaches that exist. No two experiences were the same, and we had to adapt and determine the best style of outreach for each one. In addition, interacting with people and watching the way Talley interacted with people taught me a lot about the nature of outreach and food insecurity as well. Listening to each person’s personal situation and talking to Talley about his experiences taught me what kinds of questions we might encounter on the helpline. These experiences, along with Talley’s guidance gave me the tools I needed to create a SNAP Helpline that would best cater to the callers. I learned the best way to help people is to truly understand where they are coming from and what they want to get out of the helpline.
Having more control over the project gave me the opportunities to learn what worked and what did not. This enabled me to learn a lot more from my experience than if I had simply been given orders. In addition, it built my problem solving skills and gave me confidence in my own abilities to tackle other projects in the future. My experience at the Food Bank of Delaware not only enhanced my life as a student, but as a professional and as a part of my community. I have already seen myself applying my new knowledge and skills to other parts of my life and I cannot wait to use the lessons I learned in class this coming semester.
I’d like to thank Talley and the rest of the staff at the Food Bank of Delaware for continuously supporting me this summer! Thank you for an amazing experience!