Many Hamilton students are hard at work at fascinating internships this summer. A few even managed to do two. Alicia Rost ’15 is going above the call of duty to give back to her community by interning with two non-profit organizations: The Maine Hunger Initiative and the Environmental Health Strategy Center. Her work this summer is made possible by support from the Joseph F. Anderson ’44 Internship Fund.
Rost’s first internship, through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, involves working with the Maine Hunger Initiative to advance its summer food program. The Initiative, in collaboration with the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), offers a free meal to any child or teen under 18 in Maine, extending the state’s school lunch program. Rost explained that there is a large gap between the nutritious food children receive during the school year and in the summer, commenting, “Hunger doesn’t end with the school year.” In fact, one in four children in Maine is food insecure. The Maine Hunger Initiative is helping to solve this problem by providing meals every weekday and hosting special family events throughout the summer.
As part of her internship, Rost worked on outreach. She wrote press releases for local papers posted fliers and attended local events to spread awareness of the summer food program. She traveled door to door, working on bringing people out to participate in the program. She explained, “Even if there’s a need, sometimes it’s hard to get people to come out.” To encourage participation, the Maine Hunger Initiative holds events in open areas where people naturally congregate, such as parks and beaches, to create a comfortable, social environment. As part of her work, Rost also brought local businesses into the program, expanding the healthy options participants have.
These efforts form part of the Maine Hunger Initiative’s goal to reduce the stigma associated with aid programs. Rost found that her own perspective changed throughout the summer. She remarked, “Being able to hear all these people’s stories has made me much more open-minded … People are too quick to judge.” Although Rost grew up in Maine and volunteered at a food pantry growing up, her internship gave her a new perspective on hunger in Maine.
Upon completing her internship with the Maine Hunger Initiative, Rost is continuing to give back through a second internship with the Environmental Health Strategy Center. The Center is a small organization based out of Portland that works to promote human health. In particular, they are raising awareness about toxins such as BPA, a chemical that has been linked to cancer, learning disabilities and obesity. It is known to be especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Rost explained that she is “working on a campaign to hold Governor LePage accountable for vetoing a bill that would have required billion-dollar food companies to disclose their use of BPA in canned foods.”
Rost values both of her internship experiences for enabling her to become more involved in helping people throughout Maine. After graduation, she hopes to continue in a similar line of work, perhaps going into public education or public policy. She noted that she is particularly interested in “policy changes that have the larger picture in mind and try to help a lot of people at once.” Her work this summer has provided a strong start toward helping many people.
Rost is a graduate of Greely High School in Maine.