Above: Allison Bunyan, 29th Class Emerson National Hunger Fellow.
I applied for the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship in order to learn how I could enter the anti-hunger field with thought and care. I wanted to better understand the root causes of hunger and poverty, how to apply a racial equity lens to my work, and learn how I could orient my passions for sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems toward solving complex social problems. My interest in this field grew over time as I pursued work in international development, environmental conservation, organic farming, and food systems development. Upon my acceptance into the program, I was thrilled to move across the country to Miami, Florida for my field placement with Common Threads!
Common Threads is national nonprofit that provides children, families, and educators across the country with hands-on cooking and nutrition education classes. Common Threads inspires communities to embrace healthy cooking, healthy eating, and the celebration of culture. They aspire to reach every community through the power of cooking and food as medicine. In my time with Common Threads, my work and contribution to the organization was focused in three main areas:
Marketing and Communications (M&C)
Before working with Common Threads, I served as a Food Systems Development AmeriCorps Member in Reno, Nevada, creating social media content for the Desert Farming Initiative, an organic farm. In the hope of building on that experience, I listed media/communications as one of my skills in my Emerson Fellowship application; I was overjoyed to find out that I would get to focus on M&C with Common Threads. As a member of the M&C team, I composed blogs, drafted and scheduled social media content, created newsletters, and captured photo and video content. I also helped ensure that posts, across all social media platforms, accurately depicted Common Threads’ diverse audience. Overall, I learned how to manage digital media and market programs in a professional, organized, and efficient way. I also learned how to write content and create compelling graphics that fit into a branded story and engage an audience.
Teaching Small Bites
In 2019, I served in Peace Corps Mongolia as a Health Volunteer; I assisted with English lessons and co-taught elementary, middle, and secondary students on a range of health and life skills topics. While working with Common Threads, I was able to build on that experience by facilitating an after-school Small Bites course teaching nutrition and healthy snack-making to middle school students. In this course, students learned about fruits and veggies, protein, whole grains, and more – and at the end of each lesson, they made a snack! I was quite nervous to take on this responsibility, but I recognized that it would be an amazing opportunity to teach on my own for the first time. My main goals were to 1) Bring my students into the lesson planning/preparation process and 2) Cater each lesson to their needs and preferences.
Of course, teaching did not come without its challenges. My biggest challenge was getting the class’s attention and engaging them in the lesson. I began to focus on getting to know my students and asking for their feedback, which improved my rapport with them. I also incorporated more hands-on activities and games into my lessons. As I learned how to make each lesson more enjoyable for my students, I found myself enjoying the experience more and more as well. In the end, I finished the course feeling more confident in my teaching abilities and I plan to continue pursuing teaching opportunities in the future.
DEI Progress Report
The final portion of my field placement with Common Threads focused on leading the writing process for their inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Progress Report. The purpose of this report is to document the progress made from their various DEI projects, identify areas for improvement, and pinpoint future priorities. The goal for the final report is to drive internal conversations around DEI and hold the organization accountable to its values.
I was honored to be part of drafting such an important report and I felt supported from every direction as I started drafting an outline, co-leading stakeholder feedback sessions, and writing different sections of the report. This work required me to gather feedback from staff across multiple departments, which was overwhelming at first, but over time, as I settled into my role, I appreciated the opportunity to improve my skills in project management and interacting with the staff. I also found that my work with the M&C team directly supported my work on the DEI Progress Report. As I learned about Common Threads’ DEI work, I already had a breadth of knowledge about everything that Common Threads does which helped me quickly get my bearings in leading the report writing process. I am excited to see the final draft of the report in spring 2023.
I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to work with Common Threads! From the very beginning, I felt welcomed, accepted, and taken care of by the team. They supported me in getting to know Miami, adjusting to working remotely, and even navigating hurricane season in Florida. I have learned how to tell Common Threads’ story, teach nutrition and snack-making, and track the progress of DEI work. I also improved my skills in critical writing, research, social media, community outreach, project management, and applying a racial equity lens to my work. These skills will no doubt benefit me as I move into my policy placement, attend graduate school, and begin a career in anti-hunger work. Life in Miami was a wonderful whirlwind of new experiences, knowledge, fun adventures, and a time I won’t soon forget.
Special thanks to PepsiCo for their sponsorship of this Emerson National Hunger Fellowship placement at Common Threads in Miami.