Patrick Morrison: Learning About the Perseverance of Our Community Firsthand
Thanks to the Leavey School of Business’s Community Fellows Program, I’ve had the opportunity - over the past eight weeks - to work at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. Second Harvest is a foodbank, one of the largest in the nation, that provides thousands of members of our San Jose community with fresh, healthy produce and other food items. My role with Second Harvest is as a Strategy & Advocacy Intern; I help Second Harvest to advocate for legislature that would help to ease the effects of food insecurity on our community.
So far, my work with Second Harvest has been an active, engaging, and eye-opening experience. The project that I’m working on, currently, involves interviewing college students at other universities (aside from Santa Clara University) to advocate for CalFresh for college students. CalFresh is the California equivalent of SNAP (widely known as food stamps) and is aimed to help alleviate the impact of food insecurity on California residents. College students, for a variety of reasons, have significantly less access to the resource. In my role, I’ve interviewed individuals who work at schools to improve CalFresh access for students. The experience has been incredibly illuminating. Being fortunate enough to not experience food insecurity, speaking to administrators about students who are like me in many ways, and seeing how strong they are to balance school, work, and the harsh reality of food insecurity, has taught me about the resiliency of people in the broader San Jose community. The role has also surprised me in a variety of ways. I knew, coming in, that I would have the opportunity to tell stories, but I didn’t expect to be able to interview individuals directly and have real conversations with them about their everyday experiences. This opportunity has been particularly impactful for me; I feel like I have a direct, active role in learning and telling the stories of people in our communities. I feel honored to have the opportunity to tell some of these stories.
In my role, I’ve also learned a great deal outside of storytelling. I’ve been engaged in research of CalFresh. I’ve familiarized myself with the program and with a variety of different California laws, and now I feel like I have a solid grasp of a concept that I knew very little about before. I’m learning about the unfairness of some of our laws and how the government’s system of food support needs significant revision. In terms of the technical skills I’ve learned, I’ve been engaging with Salesforce. I’ve been using the platform to update our advocacy contacts – many of them being local and federal politicians.
Going forward, I want to tell as many stories as I can with Second Harvest. The process of interviewing and hearing about the lives of people in my community – and realizing that I have the power to help them – has really affected me. I know I have the opportunity to interview more students and administrators at other schools, and I want to focus my attention on telling their stories. I also want to express how grateful I am to the Community Fellows Program and Second Harvest for allowing me the opportunity to learn more and to engage better with our community.