A personal reflection from one of our summer interns on what it is like to intern at the Food Partnership during Covid-19. Written by Tasmin Schofield.
My alarm goes off, I jump out of bed, hop in the shower, shove down some breakfast, whizz the toothbrush around my mouth and scuttle out the door. I start the first day of my summer internship in an hour, yet I am 200 miles away from the office. Under normal circumstances I would be a) only 8.5 miles away from the office, and b) speed walking to the train station. Instead, I am having a leisurely walk in the sunshine wondering if I am even capable of speed walking anymore. I have always rushed around from place to place but these last few months I have really learned how to live life in the slow lane.
I also think about how relaxed and stress-free I feel by not having to squeeze my way onto the train and forcibly cuddle a stranger.
I make sure I am back half an hour before my start time to set my laptop up and get comfortable. My laptop has worked faultlessly, and gets used everyday, but right on cue it freezes. Ah, of course, I was not going to get away completely stress-free on my first morning of work. Luckily, I had given myself that half an hour and manage to get my laptop working just in time for my start and induction meeting. It is weird meeting your colleagues virtually – no tour of the office, just of their faces – you try to give people eye contact but in reality you are all just staring at each other’s chins. I did not even stress last night about what to wear today or whether I would have enough food to get me through the day (being hangry on my first day would certainly not make a good impression).
My day is mostly full of meetings, including the ‘Emergency Food Network Meeting’ where food banks and hubs, the city council and other organisations involved in tackling food poverty within Brighton and Hove convene. Any problems or daily stresses I have ever experienced are instantly quashed. Do I even know what hungry is? I have never gone a day without food and there are people (a shockingly high proportion too) who go a whole week between meals. Not to mention there is little choice in what that meal is. The meeting is inspiring yet harrowing; these people are improving so many other lives, but they should not need to fight what feels like a losing battle. It is hard not to get angry at the government. The Coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted existing disparities within society and the secondary effects of Covid-19 combined with Brexit are likely to increase these inequalities.
I am approaching the end of my second week (out of eight) and it has flown by! I love Brighton & Hove Food Partnership’s values which is why I wanted to work for them, and seeing some of the diverse and extensive work that they do I have no idea how such a small team achieves so much – they are superheroes! Unfortunately I cannot witness in person the action they take on the ground for the community, but I am amazed by all the work that goes on behind the scenes. I am making my small impact by carrying out research for them and by working from home I do believe that I am far more efficient. For example, there is no travel time required for meetings, or making teas and coffees for the whole team. Distractions are also out of the question, BHFP are certainly keeping me on my toes 😊!
So here we are, a month or so later, with just over a week left at BHFP (you would not believe how many times I have typed ‘Brighton & Hove Food Partnership’ in such a short space of time). A few things I have learned from working at home are: for some bizarre reason technology is far more reliable in the office than it is at home; yes, the annoying geriatric cat really is that annoying all the time; spending evenings and weekends outdoors will prevent cabin fever; and virtual human contact is definitely better than no contact. Despite the circumstances, working for BHFP has been a fantastic experience. The staff are all so lovely, friendly, and supportive, which has been vouched for by members of the Emergency Food Network when I asked them to rate BHFP and explain their reasoning. It has also been immensely inspiring to discover in some detail the work that volunteers are doing, they really are the foundation of the city. Moving forward I will be getting more involved with volunteering and imploring others to do the same because it is so invaluable to some members of the community. I am also making a bigger effort to smile at strangers – these are scary times, and a smile really can go a long way.
The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership recruits paid summer interns via local university internship schemes. To learn more about the types of schemes we are involved in, visit Sussex University.