Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Caitlyn

This is the first post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Caitlyn Humann, Honors ’22

Author: Caitlyn Humann, Junior

Thanks to the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, I had the opportunity to intern at my regional food bank, Long Island Cares Inc. – The Harry Chapin Food Bank, this past summer. Long Island Cares brings together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry and food insecure on Long Island and aims to provide for the humanitarian needs of the community.

Initially, my goal for this internship could be summed into one statement: to learn, from the perspective of LIC, the relationship between non-profits and all levels of government. I wondered if it is easy for non-profits to get funding and personal acknowledgement from legislative bodies and the extent that food banks rely on federal and state support.

What I didn’t know at the time I applied for this fellowship was that the COVID-19 pandemic would put New York in a state of emergency starting in March and that by May 4th , the demand for Long Island Cares’ services would increase by 64%.

What was initially designed to be a government advocacy internship – during which I would draft letters to representatives, attend in-person legislature meetings and help expand LIC’s Veterans Project by hand delivering food to veteran’s homes – expanded. I worked under LIC’s Chief Government Affairs Officer and drafted letters to advocate for COVID-specific support for food insecure communities, attended virtual local government and advocacy meetings, tracked new legislation on the federal, state and local levels and outlined testimonies on LIC’s new developments, successes and challenges since the start of the pandemic.

As increasing amounts of Long Islanders faced unemployment and food insecurity, I saw first-hand the vital role that food banks play in communities across the nation. I analyzed the impact that COVID had on all demographics of Long Islanders along with representatives’ actions that supported food banks. I was also able to make positive impacts in the moment by packing boxes full of nutritious food for members of my own community.

Just as the Honors Program builds a sense of community by bringing diverse groups of students together to collaborate and support each other in reaching their academic (and personal) goals, Long Island Cares brings together people of all demographics to form a community that stretches across Long Island in which everyone plays their role in fighting against hunger. In our Honors classes and conversations, we often discuss the “missing voice.” Through this internship, I heard
the voice of food insecure families, who rely on non-profits to live a happy life. I am grateful to the Honors Program for giving me this opportunity. As I enter my professional career and strive towards my goal of representing my community as an elected government official who advocates for justice, I will keep this experience with me.

Spring 2020 Bronx Talks & Coronavirus

Author: Amelia Medved, sophomore

Earlier this semester, the Honors Program hosted a series of Bronx Talks, in which Honors students and the wider campus community were invited to engage with expert speakers working in the borough. On February 11th, Dr. Jane Bedell and Ms. Kim Freeman gave a presentation called “The State of Health in the Bronx.” Both work at the Neighborhood Health Action Center, which the City Department of Health placed in Tremont to address location-specific health disparities. In the talk, Dr. Bedell and Ms. Freeman discussed the historic policies creating inequity in the city (redlining, for example) and the systematic inequality that perpetuates problems today. In the Bronx, severe pollution, insufficient access to healthy food, and other deep-rooted issues amount to a 5 to 7 year difference in life expectancy compared to the rest of the city.

All around the country, the coronavirus outbreak has given existing inequalities like these more urgency. As of May 18th, the Bronx accounted for 23% of cases in the city, though Bronx residents only make up 17% of the population. Bronx residents are contracting COVID-19 at a high rate, and are also more likely to have severe cases. Dangerous pre-existing conditions such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes are more common in the Bronx than in other parts of the city. In the Belmont neighborhood where Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus is located, for example, 22% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 11% for the entire city.

Since being sent home due to the coronavirus, I have been thinking about the Bronx often, not only because I miss my Fordham friends, classes, and Honors community, but also since the borough is being hit hard by this crisis, and may continue to be affected years into the future. However, I am also reminded of the resilience which Carolyn McLaughlin described in her Bronx Talk on February 24th. In a Q&A forum with Honors students and in her book South Bronx Battles, Ms. McLaughlin gave a first-hand account of the community efforts she witnessed over the last fifty years as a social worker in the Bronx. She shared numerous examples of successful advocacy and rebuilding efforts following insufficient city funding and frequent fires in the 1970s, and her testament to the previous endurance of the community is a reminder that the Bronx can do the same following the current coronavirus crisis. From my home, I recognize the privilege I have to be able to leave the city to protect my health and the health of other Fordham students, and I hope that when we return to campus, I have the opportunity to contribute to the Bronx’s recovery.