MUNCH: Lessons Learned | The River Food Pantry
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Written by Anna Novak, MUNCH Program Intern

My summer interning with the MUNCH program was an incredible and invaluable learning experience. As I head back to school for my final semester, I will truly miss the program and the people it introduced me to, both coworkers and the families I developed relationships with when out with the MUNCH truck. I made so many meaningful connections through everyday interactions during the MUNCH program. I don’t take those connections for granted. My summer ‘job’ was much more than a job and didn’t feel like work at all; it was a unique experience that helped me grow as a person while nourishing the Northside of Madison.

Whether through working with The River’s staff, volunteers, or community members, I learned so much because of this experience. I learned to be a more effective leader and to work with diverse populations. Each day with the MUNCH program was different, teaching me to stay on my toes and adapt to whatever was thrown at me. Being adaptable with the goal of improving community nutrition challenged me and encouraged my personal growth. Each day I was surrounded by the most determined and passionate people I have ever met. They inspired me to better myself, both personally and professionally.

The River, along with MUNCH, would not be as strong as it is without the dedicated volunteers. Volunteers really are the muscles behind the operations. I was fortunate to lead and work directly with up to twelve volunteers each day – from making hundreds of sandwiches while listening to 80’s rock to delivering lunches to eight different stops on the Northside, I got to know and respect so many incredible individuals, families, and business groups. Without such wonderful volunteers dedicating their time, MUNCH would not be able to assist the number of families it does every non-school day.

As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I am unintentionally shielded from the surrounding community. I never realized the desperate need for a place like The River Food Pantry. Through this experience, I’ve learned just how vital The River and MUNCH are to the Madison area outside of the university bubble and how many lives it touches daily. I am so fortunate for the opportunity to have stepped outside of campus with MUNCH. My summer has opened my eyes to the challenges that the Madison community faces.

I think everyone should have access to nutritious food. MUNCH aligns with my beliefs by bridging the hunger gap that exists when school is not in session. I am so appreciative of everything I have learned and experienced over the summer and I would not be the person I am today without The River Food Pantry and the MUNCH program.

This story was originally featured in our Fully Nourished Community Newsletter.

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