Interview with Kenzie Wade on Working with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

Kenzie Wade Foodbank

Interview with Kenzie Wade on Working with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

October 10, 2022

MacKenzie Wade is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology.  She studies changing cultural perceptions of edible insects and participates in community education of the environmental, social, and health impact of the food we eat. As an IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellow, Wade worked with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

What was the main focus of your internship, and what were some of the projects you worked on?

The main focus of my internship was to design and implement the Foodbank’s Hunger Action Month Campaign that ran through the month of September. The purpose of the campaign is to draw attention to hunger in Santa Barbara County, engage community members in actions to fight hunger, and help drive donations to the Foodbank. I connected with different local restaurants who joined the campaign by donating $1 for every order of a specific menu item through the month. I also created a September calendar with daily activities for community members, including volunteering with the Foodbank, sharing favorite recipes, and supporting participating restaurants. Throughout my internship, I also worked on general nonprofit marketing tasks alongside the Development Team. I sent email newsletters, edited the Foodbank website, and designed on-brand assets for the Foodbank’s educational programs.

Hunger Action Month flyer

What did you enjoy the most about your internship?

I really enjoyed becoming a part of the community outside of the UCSB bubble and learning from such fantastic people who really care about the work they do. I have worked on food insecurity in my academic research and at the national level, but this internship helped me feel rooted in the work being done by and for my own local community. My mentor, Judith Smith-Meyer, was fantastic and taught me so much about nonprofit marketing. One of the most impactful days at the Foodbank was riding around on a food recovery mission. The purpose of this trip was to capture content for the Foodbank’s social media to show the work and care that goes into saving good food from waste and ensuring it reaches those in need. This experience set the tone for my internship and helped me understand the importance of centering people in the marketing work I was doing.

What were some of the things you learned?

Throughout my time at the Foodbank, I learned a lot about the importance of establishing and maintaining a consistent brand. The Foodbank’s first logo was an image of food covered by a house — appropriate for an organization focused on providing food to those in need. However, they underwent a re-branding that changed their logo completely. My mentor explained that food is not really what is at the center of the Foodbank’s work. The Foodbank is focused on people and relationships. It builds up a network of staff and volunteers who support others in our local community (the Foodbank would say “our neighbors”). The Foodbank’s logo now features two people and their mascot “Pip,” a smiling orange, is found everywhere on the Foodbank’s materials. Learning to put people first and maintain consistency with the Foodbank’s mission and message helped me rethink the branding and writing work I was doing throughout my internship and as I learned what marketing for a nonprofit entails.

How did your training as a graduate student in Anthropology prepare you for this work?

As a graduate student in Anthropology, I do a lot of writing, and this prepared me well for my work with the Foodbank’s marketing team. I understand how to write for different audiences (i.e., press releases, email blasts, social media collateral) and the importance of tailoring copy for different purposes. Because anthropology is concerned with peoples’ lived experiences, the Foodbank’s message of putting people first was particularly relevant for me. I expected a nonprofit like the Foodbank to group individuals into broad categories or reduce them to numbers, but I learned that the most effective approach for the Foodbank is actually to treat each person as a distinct individual with a story and this is what the marketing team works to do.

Do you have any sense of how this experience or your participation in the Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program might impact your graduate or post-graduate career?

My research is on food systems and potential solutions to food-based issues, like food insecurity and environmental degradation. People experience these issues and people work to make change. It was so important for me to be a part of an organization working to feed our community at the local level and to be involved in the many parts of the process. I am lucky that my research translates so well outside academia (everyone eats!) and I see a lot of potential for continued community collaboration. If I choose to stay in academia after graduation, I plan to continue building community partnerships, working on public education projects, and helping students focus on case studies that center people. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the Foodbank through the IHC.

Click here to learn more about the IHC Public Humanities Graduate Fellows Program.