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From Intern to Practitioner
The PRCHN welcomes dozens of interns each year. Some go on to be graduate students, while others begin their public health careers immediately upon graduation. We're pleased to say that one of our current interns, Jennifer Roberts (pictured, left, with fellow intern Briana Walker), will soon be going to work for one of our partners, St. Clair Superior Development Corporation (SCSDC). where she will be managing St. Clair Farm Market at Hub 55 and a series of cooking classes and workshops for the community at the market. She’ll also be designing and implementing family engagement strategies that use food as a catalyst for relationship building and improving community health in the neighborhood.

Morgan Taggart, SCSDC's Director of ag\re\culture, states "Jen is the perfect person for this position with her education in nutrition and environmental justice, experience in agriculture, and her passion for working with communities for positive change. I think her experience at the PRCHN with the healthy food retail initiative will be a great asset in her new position where she will be working on community projects that will need to balance innovation and evidence-based strategies with the research and evaluation framework that is a part of Dr. Darcy Freedman’s NIH-funded foodNEST research study."

Take a moment to learn about how Jen's intern experience helped prepare her for this new position.


1) Tell me about your new job with St. Clair Superior Development. What will your core project(s) be?

The position is called "Ag|re|culture Project Coordinator." The overall goals of the Ag|re|culture project are to create economic opportunities, improve access to healthy food, and improve connectivity among residents in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood.

My responsibilities will really be broken up between two projects. The first is helping manage the St. Clair Farm Stand. This will include trying to increase resident participation in the market, developing and managing relationships with growers and other community partners, as well as keeping records (for Produce Perks, produce prescription, foodNEST loyalty programs, etc). The second main project I will be working on is to plan and implement intentional community cooking spaces and programs to not only increase community members’ knowledge but also appreciation for cooking and growing food. However, this is a brand new position at St. Clair Superior, so I'm sure my tasks and responsibilities will be evolving!

2) You started as an intern at the PRCHN in summer 2016. Could you tell me about what you did here?

When I started out at the PRC last summer I was splitting my time equally between the REACH project and the NEAP project. For NEAP, I was involved in the pre-screening calls, ground-truthing, and data entering of the project. When fall came around, I needed to finish up my Nutrition capstone, so I continued on as an unpaid capstone intern for the fall semester (working only for REACH). For this spring, I was lucky enough to intern again for REACH.

As an intern for the Healthy Food Retail project on the REACH team, most of my time was spent in the field. I scouted and recruited corner stores into the program. When I started last summer there were only five stores in the network. Fellow intern Briana Walker, the community ambassadors, and I were able to recruit 16 additional stores over the past year. After recruitment, I continued engagement with the stores on a weekly basis. This involved visiting the stores to monitor performance, suggesting new healthy food items to add, collecting data (such as inventories, produce sales tacking), and providing any support that the store owners needed. I also worked on some side projects including establishing a partnership with the wholesale distributor Seaway Cash 'N' Carry, designing marketing material for Hayden Food Plus (in East Cleveland) to increase visibility of healthy food options within the store, and designing and implementing a customer survey at Transmart (in the central neighborhood).

3) What was the most challenging task/project you did at the PRCHN? What do you feel made you grow?

The most challenging task as an intern for the Healthy Food Retail project was recruiting new stores into the program. Gaining the store owners’ trust and building a solid relationship with each store was imperative to the program's success. However, approaching a small corner store where the owner knows most of their customers and asking them to sign on to a program they have never heard of was tricky. It required visiting some stores multiple times and showing the store owners that not only were we serious, but we were committed to helping them improve the health of their community.

My work on this project was all about communicating and working with different partners including store owners, wholesale distributors, Ohio State University Extension, community ambassadors, and community residents. Developing and maintaining relationships with these diverse partners was the most important experience I gained from working at the PRC.

4) I understand you're about to graduate. What is your major?

I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and a minor in Biology

5) How did the job with St. Clair Superior come about?
I actually interviewed for the Americorps VISTA job they posted. After the interview, Morgan Taggart called me and told me she wanted to talk about a brand new position that wasn't even posted yet—the Ag|re|culture project coordinator. So I had a second interview of sorts where they explained the position to me and it was everything I was interested in—food justice, farming, nutrition/cooking education and community engagement. I accepted right on the spot!

6) What is it about your training here at the PRCHN that prepared you for this position?

Having experience working with diverse groups of people is always an asset. My internship experience at the PRC help me to hone my communication skills, and it also helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the food environment in Cleveland. I also had the opportunity to forge and maintain relationships with community partners, which is critical to the success of all community programs such as the Healthy Food Retail Initiative and the new projects I will be a part of at St. Clair Superior.
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