Welcome back to our VISTA Spotlight series in which we’re spotlighting our AmeriCorps VISTAs and our member organizations who host our VISTAs during their year of service. Our host sites are the backbone of our VISTA program. Host site supervisors commit to guiding and mentoring members through their service year and are an instrumental asset for our VISTA’s professional development.
Today’s spotlight is on Maddy Smith, an NC Hunger Corps VISTA serving at NC State University in the Feed the Pack Pantry. She graduated from Dickinson College with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Women and Gender Studies and Food Studies. Her undergraduate experience with studying social injustice, and specifically food injustice, led her to pursue work with nonprofits. Before her VISTA service with NC Campus Compact, Maddy worked as a camp counselor and farm program leader at Gwynn Valley Camp. In that role, she taught 9 to 12 year-old youth about nature and outdoor living while managing farm staff, maintaining the farm, and providing a fun, safe experience for the campers. She was even able to help deliver a newborn piglet during her time on the farm!
Feed the Pack is a student-led food pantry at NC State that helps meet the food needs of all members of the NC State community with dignity and respect. The pantry was founded in 2012 by students and is currently managed by the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement. Feed the Pack is run by a student leadership team who are reliant on volunteers to maintain the pantry, especially since they’ve seen an influx of patrons since the start of the pandemic. 23% of the student population at NCSU is food insecure, which is why Feed the Pack strives to create a more robust operation and build the capacity needed to support their community.
Dana Petre is the Program Coordinator for Feed the Pack and serves as Maddy’s host site supervisor. She builds partnerships on and off campus with nonprofit community organizations and supports an online platform for students to find service opportunities in the community. She is an advocate for the Feed the Pack Pantry and spreads awareness about food and housing insecurity throughout the campus community. She has guided Maddy throughout her service year by means of her dedication, experience, and support.
Maddy has also found mentorship from Maggie Kane, the Founder and Executive Director of A Place at the Table, Raleigh’s first pay-what-you-can nonprofit café. Maggie is an NC State alum and is passionate about hunger and fighting food insecurity. Maddy has learned a lot from Maggie throughout her service year, and Maddy looks up to her as a leader in the fight against hunger in Raleigh.
Maddy’s role at Feed the Pack has primarily been to recruit volunteers, fundraise, and build partnerships. Through grants, fundraisers, monetary, and in-kind donations, the pantry has earned more than $350,000 since Maddy started service. She has built meaningful relationships with many organizations, one of which is called SOL Garden on NC State’s campus. SOL stands for Students for Organic Living, and Maddy has worked with the student-led community garden’s president, Paige Major, to design a permaculture “food forest” on campus. The “forest” will act as a source of food for the pantry as well as an educational space where students can learn more about permaculture. Maddy has also reinstated a partnership with The Interfaith Food Shuttle, which donates boxes of food to the pantry regularly and even donated frozen meals over winter break for students on campus. Another partnership that Maddy has nurtured is with Farmer Foodshare, an organization that connects local, small-scale farmers to retail opportunities. The Feed the Pack Pantry also receives weekly donations from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and a corporate donation of food from Food Lion.
Something that Maddy is proud of are the cooking demonstrations that she organized with a group of Park Scholars, who are required to do a service project during their time at NC State. They created recipes, filmed cooking demonstrations, and then put the ingredients together in a box with the QR code to the video so that folks would have all of the materials and resources that they needed to make a delicious meal.
After service Maddy will be sticking around in Raleigh. She has grown to love the area and has met wonderful people that share her passions and interests.
To learn more about Feed the Pack, follow their Instagram @feedthepack!