NCBA CLUSA is pleased to host Katie Waeldner at its headquarters in Washington, DC this summer as a Zero Hunger Intern through a partnership with the Congressional Hunger Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to make issues of domestic and international hunger a priority to policymakers in the U.S. government, and to raise a new generation of leaders to fight against hunger and poverty.
Katie is a rising junior at Duke University from Yarmouth, Maine studying cultural anthropology and global health while pursuing the pre-medical track. She is one of twelve student leaders selected by the Congressional Hunger Center from a pool of 400 applicants. The center’s Zero Hunger Internship Program gives young leaders a chance to see the power of advocacy and policymaking in action with hands-on work at leading anti-hunger organizations in Washington, DC, like NCBA CLUSA.
During her internship, Katie has been supporting NCBA CLUSA’s resilience team. Read her reflections below!
The Congressional Hunger Center was founded in 1993 in response to the elimination of the House Select Committee on Hunger to find sustainable solutions to national and international hunger and poverty. Today, the Congressional Hunger Center has three programs: the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellowship, the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship, and the Zero Hunger Initiative. The Zero Hunger Initiative is aimed at college students. As a 2019 Intern, I am a member of the second cohort.
Through the Zero Hunger Internship Program, I’m working with NCBA CLUSA and participating in a Summer Seminar Series. Through this series, I’m learning about the root causes of food insecurity and poverty alongside other students interning at global and domestic anti-hunger organizations in Washington, DC. Throughout the summer, we have learned from activists and experts in the anti-hunger world. Their knowledge has provided keen insights into the different approaches organizations and individuals take to end hunger.
The partnership between NCBA CLUSA and the Congressional Hunger Center has enriched my experience in Washington, DC. The Congressional Hunger Center has exposed me to the complexities of poverty and given me advocacy tools—transferrable knowledge and skills. NCBA CLUSA has provided an opportunity to apply these tools and skills at a globally-focused anti-hunger organization.
NCBA CLUSA has provided an opportunity to apply these tools and skills at a globally-focused anti-hunger organization.
For example, the Congressional Hunger Center uses a Leadership Capabilities Model to instill core competencies in Fellows and Interns. Characteristics include resourcefulness, resilience and the ability to think critically. At NCBA CLUSA, I’ve noticed people well-versed in these skills. More importantly, though, I recognize how NCBA CLUSA’s projects promote these qualities in others, addressing the root causes of poverty and food insecurity, just as I learned about through the Congressional Hunger Center.
To illustrate, I work with the resilience practice area at NCBA CLUSA—one of three specialized working groups—to develop, monitor and evaluate international programs. The team strives to build resilience by strengthening community members’ ability to cope with unpredictable shocks, such as natural disasters. By providing technical assistance, NCBA CLUSA aids many communities in nutrition-sensitive agriculture, governance and natural resource management to promote economic stability and independence. These interventions prevent setbacks into poverty after communities suffer shocks.
NCBA CLUSA’s interventions emphasize resourcefulness by utilizing communities’ existing strengths. For example, in Senegal NCBA CLUSA assists in the production and marketing of millet—a traditional, nutritious staple crop. By disseminating climate-smart farming techniques, NCBA CLUSA has helped farmers increase their yields and supply local markets instead of purchasing imported crops, such as rice. This program has leveraged community resources, increasing incomes and the availability of nutritious grains.
As I continue to learn about large scale programs during my internship, critical thinking is proving extremely important. I have observed this skill in people I have met at the Congressional Hunger Center, through the Summer Seminar Series, and in meetings at NCBA CLUSA. Leaders at the Congressional Hunger Center challenge us to look beyond immediate solutions to hunger and poverty. I have been encouraged to interact with local stakeholders to develop nuanced approaches, a strategy that is ultimately more sustainable because it addresses the systemic issue.
Employees at NCBA CLUSA practice critical thinking by collaborating to design the most effective and sustainable international programs. Experts from each sector come together to deeply understand the drivers of change, crafting innovative solutions that mitigate any harmful effects. Although this method requires more patience and energy, it ultimately yields sustainable outcomes.
As the number of food insecure people in the world increases, it can be easy to lose hope of achieving Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—ending hunger by 2030. Certainly, the rising numbers feel personally discouraging, especially when I see people working so hard day after day to reverse the trend. But mentors from my summer experience have fostered my passion for global food security while teaching me concrete methods to achieve such a lofty goal. Furthermore, interacting with other Zero Hunger interns who share the same drive feels encouraging because I see them as future collaborators.
Alone, the skills from the Congressional Hunger Center and the applications at NCBA CLUSA are valuable. Together, though, these experiences complement each other in ways that make SDG2 feel attainable.
Alone, the skills from the Congressional Hunger Center and the applications at NCBA CLUSA are valuable. Together, though, these experiences complement each other in ways that make SDG2 feel attainable. The skills I have gained this summer will surely allow me to promote and develop solutions to hunger and poverty in my local and global communities.