My name is Sylvie Durlacher and I am a rising Senior at The Ohio State University studying Education and Leadership Studies. This summer The Columbus Foundation has granted me an unparalleled opportunity to continue to cultivate my passion for working with non-profit organizations as a Summer Fellow with Neighborhood Services Inc. If my first week at my host organization is any indication of how the remaining weeks of this summer-long experience will be, I am truly in for what will be the most formative experience of my undergraduate career.
Neighborhood Services Inc. seeks to, “improve the quality of life in the Columbus community by compassionately and respectfully serving our neighbors in need”. Since NSI is located essentially walking distance from Ohio State’s campus, I am able to walk to work every day! Though, at the conclusion of my first week I realized that I wouldn’t need to rely on that walk to get my steps in for the day! (During my day I am continually on my feet–helping unload new deliveries, restock shelves and engaging with the neighbors!) Today, for example, I learned how to skillfully use a pallet jack–a piece of “machinery” that is incredibly necessary in a food pantry in order to move produce and other goods–hmm I wonder if I can add that skill to my resume after this summer 🙂 While I inherently enjoy my daily walk to and from work, it has quickly come to have an added level of significance. As I walk towards the intersection of 18th Ave and 4th St., the blocks between NSI’s service area and Ohio State’s campus growing, I am confronted a disturbing reality: access to basic necessities (fundamental basic rights) like fresh food is not equal in the city I have come to call home.
Some people (I think too many) are unaware that categorically, Franklin County has some of the gravest Food Deserts. Neighborhood Services, Inc. serves four zip codes, encompassing the Linden, Weinland Park, and University Area. NSI’s service area is in one of these Food Deserts, with the nearest grocery store located more than a mile away. In my time at NSI thus far I have had the opportunity to work in numerous roles. Working the front desk assisting with the in-take process and helping NSI’s clients in the actual food pantry have offered me more than just context for the project I will be doing. I am gaining a new understanding of the lives of my neighbors. I am grateful for the trust they have enlisted in me, their eagerness to share their stories with me and ultimately their desire to help me become more aware of the complexity of the issues perpetuated by poverty that our neighbors face and the role that I can play in addressing them.
Overall, I am overwhelmed with a hopeful sense of optimism about the impact my work will have this summer on NSI and their partners and stakeholders’ understanding of barriers to equitable food access in Columbus, Ohio. I am excited to see how my design and implementation of an in-depth survey of NSI’s neighbors will be used to inform their current and future work and practices.
Neighborhood Services’ organizational value of serving with compassion, humility and respect truly transcend all aspects of their work. Just a week into my Summer Fellowship and I am finding that these values guide me and shape my own approach to this work as a new member of the NSI community.
Until next week,