Robert Morris has spent the summer working as a Community Initiatives Intern with Arkansas Foodbank, the largest hunger relief organization in the state.
Since joining Arkansas Foodbank in late May, Morris’ range of duties includes assisting with the planning and implementation of the 2019-20 Backpack program; helping execute and assess the 2019 Summer Feeding Program; working to promote the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and its services through outreach efforts; and leading Cooking Matters classes to promote nutrition and food safety.
The Arkansas Foodbank Backpack program strives to send hungry children home with backpacks filled with food each weekend during the academic year. The Summer Feeding program provides crucial nutrition during the summer period when many children lose access to meals through school cafeterias. Cooking Matters classes teach individuals and families the skills they need to cook healthy meals to get the most from their food budgets.
“Robert has been a tremendous asset to the Foodbank this summer,” said Regina Taylor, Chief Community Initiatives Officer for Arkansas Foodbank and Clinton School graduate. “From the very beginning, he jumped right in by visiting various summer feeding sites, assessing our backpack programs and leading our nutrition classes. He is a committed public servant with a bright future ahead of him. I’m proud of the work he has accomplished.”
Morris witnessed the many layers of behind-the-scenes work that go into making an organization like Arkansas Foodbank run. More importantly, the internship has given him the chance to see some of that work come to fruition in the community.
“I have been a part of site visits to programs that specifically feed children that may not otherwise have a hot meal, mobile distributions of food boxes to communities in need, Summer Cereal Drives where I have seen communities rally together to graciously give their own resources to help their neighbors, and Cooking Matters sessions where I have been able to help people in living a healthier and better life,” Morris said.
As a student pursuing a concurrent Master of Public Health through UAMS, Morris said he applied to work with Arkansas Foodbank after searching for ways to further fuse his public service and public health degree programs.
“I was luckily able to find a place that meshed all of my interests together, both personally and professionally,” he said.
A native of Jacksonville, Ark., Morris said he has always had an interest in hunger relief. But the opportunity to do this type of work in the community he grew up in has opened his eyes to issues in Arkansas that he never before imagined. Arkansas Foodbank serves 33 counties and 280,000 people in central and southern Arkansas.
“The biggest thing that I have encountered is that there is no cut-and-dry picture of food insecurity within our state,” Morris said. “People may very often put people in a bubble and point fingers about certain types of people and populations that are food-insecure, but this issue truly does not discriminate by any means.”
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.