Dylan Levene ’12 has just graduated from Colgate with a degree in philosophy, and is already making an impact. As a Field School Fellow at the Hamilton Food Cupboard, Dylan is conducting research to assess the extent to which the Food Cupboard is meeting the needs of the families that rely on the food pantry every month. She is building a website on which donations can be made, organizing fundraisers and fraternity and sorority philanthropy events, writing proposals to local businesses for support, and gathering information from several nearby food pantries about their best practices.
The Food Cupboard will use the results of the quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews to better understand their clientele, and to enhance their services to match their clients’ wants and needs. This may include shifting or expanding their hours of operations, concentrating funds on certain food types and away from others, providing more hard goods if needed, making information more easily and readily available to clients about government programs, health insurance, recipes & healthy eating, and making the Food Cupboard more comfortable and accessible.
The fellowship is helping Dylan to develop her communication, research and writing skills. “I’m learning how to design qualitative and quantitative surveys and analyze the results, and I’m learning how to communicate effectively with people from a range of backgrounds and situations,” Dylan says. “I’m building my writing skills by producing cogent and concise requests for funding and in-kind donations. Most importantly, I’ve been able to exercise my creativity in brainstorming sustainable funding sources for the Food Cupboard.”
Through the experience, Dylan is also learning a lot about the community. “I’ve always known that hunger is a very real issue in Hamilton and Central New York, but I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy working at the Food Cupboard,” she says. “I love going to work each day, and getting to know the people who volunteer at the Cupboard has been a pleasure. I am continually impressed by the generosity and kindness of the Hamilton community.”
Though the Field School Fellowship is only a ten week project, Dylan is already thinking about how she can continue to affect change around issues of hunger and good nutrition.
“Working for a non-profit food pantry has really sparked new interests for me, particularly in healthy, sustainable food systems and food and agriculture policy,” Dylan said. “This is a completely new path for me and I could not have discovered it without this experience and the opportunity to see how these issues affect communities and lives.”