By Lauren Bossi
As one of DESK’s two interns this past summer, Lauren Bossi coordinated the Summer Kids’ Pantry program, an endeavor to supplement the diets for school-aged children during the summer months, when they don’t have access to school meals. This year, for the first time, DESK worked with the Housing Authority of New Haven (Elm City Communities) to deliver directly to the homes of children in need. Lauren is a recent graduate from the University of Hartford, and is currently taking a year off before applying to graduate school. –ed.
This past summer I had the pleasure of interning with Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen. As a recent college graduate looking to break into the public health sphere, DESK provided a great opportunity. Nutrition and health promotion are two things I am very passionate about and I got the same feeling from the staff at DESK. During my initial meeting with DESK’s Executive Director, Steve Werlin, he emphasized the importance he and his staff place on health. He mentioned that when it came to serving clients it wasn’t just about filling stomachs, but rather providing nutrition—a value with which I immediately identified. And each day at DESK I was able to see this exemplified through the great amount of time and energy put into preparing meals and serving our guests.
My time this summer was primarily spent developing the Summer Kids’ Pantry Program, a new program intended to provide up to 100 school-aged children with food items to supplement their diets during the summer months when school meals are not an option. I was excited for this program and the challenges that it presented. I knew healthiness and quality of the food was most important to me, but one challenge we faced early on was a limited budget. Luckily, planning meals and food shopping around a tight budget is a familiar challenge to a college student, so I didn’t feel too far outside my element. Our budget and the resources we had to acquire food ultimately overruled many of my initial ideas, and I soon found the need to modify our vision in the face of financial realities. At the end of the season, we discussed ways to improve the offerings next year, and I think it will be possible to incorporate more fresh produce and vegetables, potentially by connecting with local farmers.
Part of what I enjoyed so much this summer was the opportunity to go off-site and deliver the groceries to the children who signed up for the program. Interacting with the kids helped to personalize the work for me. Looking back, I would have loved to get to know them better, and to have had the chance to talk more about the importance of good nutrition. Giving kids the tools to eat well is a great start but teaching them how and why to use those tools is important to instilling healthy habits long-term. I’m confident that DESK will be able to find ways to do this in future years.
My experience at DESK only further validated my plan to pursue graduate school for a Masters in Public Health, specifically in Health Education and Promotion. DESK opened my eyes to what it means to manage a program. I had an interest in Program Management prior to the internship, but after being so involved in the design and implementation of the Summer Kids’ Pantry Program, I feel even more committed to this as a career. Overseeing this program was a great hands-on experience, with a lot of freedom and the ability to see the project through from start to finish. I am very grateful to DESK for affording me the opportunity for such a worthwhile summer.