Listening, Watching and Observing: A Reflection on my Second Harvest Heartland Internship
This is a guest post by our communications and journalism intern, Meghan Meints. Meghan is a senior at St. Thomas University, majoring in journalism. Read about Meghan’s Second Harvest Heartland internship experience.
This summer I spent my time interviewing strangers, visiting new places and getting to know an organization I didn’t know too well through a journalism and communications internship. For the internship, I was tasked with visiting different “field sites”—mostly food shelves, produce distributions and other partner programs that Second Harvest Heartland supports—to interview clients who rely on food assistance. My goal was to collect their stories—listen, watch, observe—and to share them with our community.
By the end of August, I had visited 19 field sites, interviewed over 40 clients and agency partners, and took over 400 photos.
My main take away from my experience this summer is that you truly cannot judge a book by its cover. People from all walks of life were present at the places I visited—some were people that had been visiting produce drops and food shelves for years, while others had just been let go from a job and needed help making ends meet.
The people I met this summer were people just like you and me. They had families they were trying to take care of while working as many hours as they could. They were people with aspirations that had also experienced heartbreak.
There is a common misunderstanding that in order to be “poor” or “food insecure,” you need to look the part. That is, your clothes need to be dirty and old, you shouldn’t have a cell phone and if you’re lucky enough to have a car, it should be on its last leg. But this simply isn’t true.
The girl on the bus with the cell phone might have had to save all her money to get a reliable form of communication (because let’s face it, phone booths are a thing of the past). The mom driving the nice car to the food shelf might have paid it off before losing her job and that is the only mode of transportation she has.
Another take away is that the people we serve are full of gratitude and a desire to give back—almost everyone I interviewed talked about sharing and looking out for one another. Many volunteer at their local church or food shelf. This really hit home for me; people that have so little are so willing to share and give back.
My experience interning with Second Harvest Heartland was a great learning experience, both personally and professionally. Yes, I honed my interview skills and was able to receive school credit. But more importantly, I met some amazing people who I will carry with me for quite some time.