Anna, our Donor and Community Engagement Manager, started at Feeding Chittenden as our volunteer coordinator 7 years ago, and has been in her current role for over three years (you might recognize her, since she does most of our TV interviews!).
Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Anna was drawn to Feeding Chittenden after doing an AmeriCorps VISTA year in Vermont. After completing her service, she felt a calling to stay in the nonprofit sector, and while she says she’s “by no means the authority on food insecurity,” she has noticed over and over again that the hunger problem is often “overlooked by people in power.” “It’s a solvable issue,” she says; “there’s enough food for everyone, and a lot of it goes to waste.”
“Talking to people and learning their stories” is an essential part of Anna’s work as the Donor & Community Engagement Manager. She says, “The thing I love best about this job is the connections I’m able to make with people, whether it’s a donor or a recipient or a volunteer or someone who’s doing a food drive. We’re all much more connected and have more in common than we would assume. So storytelling is important to my job, and it’s something I love, because it helps to build those connections.” We’re so lucky to have Anna help build these essential connections with community members throughout Chittenden County and beyond, because we can’t effectively fight hunger on our own. It’s essential that we address this problem through collaboration with individuals and organizations across all sectors of our amazing community.
It’s no surprise that Anna ended up working at a hunger relief nonprofit. She grew up with parents in the social work field, and “their influence was a positive one.”
“I can’t really imagine doing any other kind of work,” she says. “That sense of social responsibility was ingrained in me at an early age. My parents are my heroes.”
Anna learned a great deal about compassion from her parents, and now uses that strength at Feeding Chittenden– a big part of her work as our Donor and Community Engagement Manager is challenging the feelings of shame that many people experience when seeking food assistance, and making Feeding Chittenden as welcoming a place for our community as possible. She knows what it’s like to grow up in a family living paycheck-to-paycheck, and also recalls “wondering if people were judging her” when using food stamps during her time as an AmeriCorps VISTA member.
But now, working at a food access center, Anna believes that no one should be judged or feel guilty for having their needs met through organizations like Feeding Chittenden. She says she “wants to reduce that stigma” that she herself has felt and seen others endure. Anna worries that some people who could use assistance may not come to Feeding Chittenden due to the belief that “others are worse off.” However, Anna wants people to know that Feeding Chittenden has plenty of food for anyone who could benefit from free groceries, because everyone needs healthy food to function. As she says, “If you have a family and you’re not able to provide enough food for your kids, how are they supposed to go to school and learn and be alert and attentive in class on an empty stomach? We’re setting people up to fail if they don’t have those kinds of basic needs met.”
Anna believes that more people would use Feeding Chittenden’s services if they had a way of getting groceries that did not involve coming on site– she therefore sees our delivery and order ahead programs as crucial to creating a truly just, efficient, and healthy food system for all our neighbors in Chittenden County. We’re so grateful for Anna! We wouldn’t be able to do the work we do without her.