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Congressional Hunger internship taught me how I can truly impact others’ lives

Editor’s note: Kellogg Company sponsors one Zero Hunger intern each summer at the Congressional Hunger Center. James Ziegeweid from Minnesota State University, Mankato, is this year’s sponsored intern. He has worked on projects for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) during his 10-week residency and shares his experience here. FRAC is a long-time partner to Kellogg, advancing sustainable and equitable access to food as part of its Better Days Promise environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy.

 

I’m going into my third year at Minnesota State Mankato, where I’m majoring in business management with minors in Spanish, agriculture and food innovation, and political science. I’m originally from the tiny town of Arcadia, Wisc., and grew up on a farm my entire life.

That’s what got me interested in food and hunger, although when I applied for the Congressional Hunger Center internship I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation.

Part of the Hunger Center’s mission is to develop, inspire and connect young leaders in the movement to end hunger. The Hunger Center’s Zero Hunger Internship program has paid internships for students like me. I thank Kellogg Company  for funding my internship salary, because internships in Washington, D.C. are typically unpaid.

As a result, the internship is very competitive – the Hunger Center had over 500 applicants for 14 positions.

During my time here, I’ve created an advocacy guide for states’ pandemic electronic benefits transfer (P-EBT) programs and created a tableau that visualizes the different states’ P-EBT plans and tracks which states have had their plans approved.

I also created a technical assistance survey that Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) distributed to different partners to see what technical assistance – think educational programs, how to apply for federal and local grants, etc. – is being provided and what else the partners need.

FRAC then takes that information to the USDA to lobby for more aid where needed.

This internship has truly been life changing.

I’ve been able to learn from individuals who have been working on ending hunger – some of them for 36 years. It is very inspiring and shows me what I can do to be an advocate.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is, before this internship, I was working more on a direct service level with people who were facing hunger in the moment, like the campus kitchen at school. But this internship has given me an opportunity to view the various policy options that exist to fight hunger on a larger scale. I think those options are very powerful and will help us ultimately end hunger.

I also learned just how important it is to have a network as you’re trying to advance policy initiatives. Having individuals work toward the same goal, rather than focus on disparate programs, will ultimately help us end hunger.

And I’ll never forget the relationships I’ve built with the other interns. We’re like-minded individuals from across the country and we enjoyed spending a lot of time together, including outside of work, knowing all the while that we’re working towards a common goal.

In terms of my next move after college, I’ve been considering applying for a master’s in public policy. I’m still weighing my options, but this internship piqued my interest in it.

I’d like to sincerely thank Kellogg Company for this internship and the staff at the Congressional Hunger Center who are amazing. They truly care about us interns as individuals and our careers.

And I can now see how I have the potential to make a true impact on the lives of others.

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