Changing Course to Serve Our Community: A view from our summer intern Natalie

It's safe to say that this summer did not turn out how anyone expected it to. COVID-19 has forced people across our country and the world to adapt to unprecedented conditions. In the span of a few months what constitutes “normal” has been turned on its head. Beyond Hunger has faced this new normal head-on and I have had the opportunity to participate in its adjustment.

When I was first sent home from college in March I was able to volunteer at Beyond Hunger with my newfound free time. In a few short weeks I watched Beyond Hunger completely transition its distribution strategy to accommodate social distancing guidelines, incorporating contactless drive-thru pickups and walk-up options. While working for Beyond Hunger for the past few months, I have seen how it has adapted its Home Delivery program as well to continue to serve clients safely.

This summer, I was originally hired for Beyond Hunger’s Summer Meals Internship position sponsored by the Tyson Summer Community Internship Program. I was planning on assisting with Beyond Hunger’s Summer Meals Program, which provides a free lunch and activities to children 18 years and younger. This program is a great way to keep kids active during the summer while providing a safe space for any child who needs a lunch. However, the program could not be held as it has been in the past due to social distancing guidelines. The daily drop-in activity format pivoted to a summer meal pick up. 

I am assisting with the Home Delivery program, which, true to its name, delivers food every month to elderly and disabled clients. Due to COVID-19, Beyond Hunger has expanded Home Delivery to include people affected by the crisis: Emergency Home Delivery includes new clients who require short term assistance during the pandemic. While working with Home Delivery I have had the opportunity to interact with clients. I deliver food door-to-door to our clients in our monthly deliveries and call clients to remind them of their upcoming deliveries and to assess their current food needs. Through these conversations I’ve learned about some of the challenges our clients are facing. Our older and disabled neighbors have often been hit hardest by this pandemic. Safety, lack of access to transportation, and loss of income are just a few of the reasons these populations have been unable to get food on their own. But again and again, as I’ve asked if there’s “anything you want to tell us about our program,” clients have also told me how much they appreciate the deliveries and volunteers. 

Food insecurity is an issue that affects people everywhere and has been exacerbated by COVID-19. The Home Delivery program works to ensure that everyone in our community has safe access to food, regardless of their situation. Through this experience I have met and talked with some wonderful people in my community. I have had the opportunity to assist with a program that makes an impact on the lives of the clients it serves. I would like to thank Beyond Hunger, Tyson Foods, and Illinois Campus Compact for their commitment to our community. 

In July, 260 families were served through Home Delivery. This program makes a difference for our community and our clients and I am proud to be a part of it.