I started this blog back on Jan. 7 and never finished it. So now, I’m going to finish it!
So as we’ve been staycationing, I’ve realized that I haven’t really talked a ton about what I do at work or what my day to day life really looks like. Silly Rachel, these things are important. So I’m going to talk about that today.
Right now, I’m in charge of most of the Food Safety and Dignity trainings as well as the Civil Rights trainings. The Food Safety and Dignity training is for organizations that run pantries on donated food and is a requirement of Feeding America, which “is a United States-based nonprofit organization that is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.”The dignity piece is based on a handbook written by a Hunger Fellow, Dani, who worked with the Agency Partnerships team a year or so ago, and is all about ensuring a dignified experience with program participants. Our society tends to look down on those who ask for help, so anything that makes a person feel less than makes asking for necessary help more difficult. There’s a sense of stigma and judgement, and we just want to use this training to help eliminate those feelings. It’s a skit, and I have to say, I’ve discovered that even in imagined scenarios (which could be close to accurate if not accurate for some folks) are difficult to process. Every time I play the judgmental party in the skit, I feel so awful. The Civil Rights training is required by DES for frontline volunteers at the food bank and any organization that participates in TEFAP. It goes through the guidelines of what organizations who receive Federal monies and commodities can and can’t do by law. It’s based entirely on a number of Civil Rights laws and it makes me realize how much I feel that if those protections weren’t in place, our society would steam roll over protected groups, and also how very far we have to go in those protections. Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not protected classes, so discrimination is not considered a federal offense. I have an issue with this.
I also do trainings on site for different groups, so I’ve gotten to go to Cochise county for a few things, Sierra Vista a couple of times, and Vail. It’s pretty cool. I get to drive a foodbank car and see different parts of Arizona and that’s neat. There are moments where it looks like I’ve been transported back to the SouthEast and it’s so weird!
I also work on various projects as needed. Recently, I wrote up our team’s section of our DES report, compiled data for Agency Capacity Self-Assessments, have been helping digitize our agency files, and picking catering for our team retreat. All of these are things I’ve never done before, and I’m learning a lot.
The biggest piece I’ve worked on lately though is writing some poverty scenarios for our Ambassador training. So a few things about that, the Ambassador program is for volunteers who are around a lot, or who have been identified by various staff and things as possibly being able to actively communicate what it is we do to outside parties. I participated a number of weeks ago and it was quite educational. I could probably write a blog on what that program alone taught me. Part of the 3 day ambassador training is a section where participants are split up into groups and given fictitious scenarios about people in poverty. While they are fictitious, they are based on things and scenarios that are very real. After reading the brief, participants are given a certain amount of time to accomplish the tasks prevented. For most of them that is to make a budget and make sure all of your needs are met and, if possible, save for emergencies. I can tell you now, it’s super stressful as you go through. And writing the one* I’ve written already was stressful. Not because of the writing itself. I love writing, that wasn’t hard, what was hard was looking at the reality of people who exist. While the scenario is made up, the statistics and facts it is based on are very real. It made me feel helpless and hopeless to help. Poverty is systemic and cyclic. That is reality. It’s not born of laziness and lack of care, it’s born of things people can’t always control, budget, and plan for. When you live in poverty or near poverty, the reality is you’re one emergency or mistake away from even worse things. If there is anything I have learned this year, it’s that we tar the poor with a brush that is absolutely full of inaccuracy, misinformation, and rumor born of an “us vs them” mentality. I am my sibling’s keeper. I have a responsibility to do something to help. As a former educator, I feel helping people make connections and understand is helping. I strove to create empathy in my students, and I strive to create empathy in people I come in contact with.
We just recently had our Agency Partnerships retreat, so I’m also developing some self-monitoring forms for agencies and will be monitoring my own set of agencies as well. So lots of new things to look forward to this year! If you have any questions about what I do, please feel free to talk to me!
*side note: I’ve finished the second one. It was also stressful to write. Yeah. Very stressful.