Jeremy Corbally-Hammond

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond went majored in economics in school.

But rather than learning how to make a lot of money, upon graduation from the University of Maine at Farmington he wound up helping some of the poorest people in Maine. He went to work for the Good Shepherd Food-Bank. He now oversees the volunteer program from the charity’s Auburn headquarters.

Name: Jeremy Corbally-Hammond

Age: 25

Hometown: Auburn

Single, relationship or married: Married since Sept. last year to Elise Corbally-Hammond

Children? Not yet.

You began working at the Good Shepherd Food-Bank as a VISTA volunteer. Why did you join VISTA? The opportunity presented itself during my last year of college at UMF. I had completed all major course work and was looking for internship programs. The AmeriCorps VISTA position at GSFB had been forwarded to me by the university and VISTA aligned with my philanthropic priorities.

What was your first impression of the food bank? Like most people I was surprised by its size. I was quickly introduced to how severe the poverty is in our own state. I have lived in Maine most of my life and didn’t even realize this large hunger relief network was in operation, or was even needed.

How did you become a regular member of the staff? My term as an AmeriCorps VISTA was only suppose to last one year. In my last months I was offered a full-time job doing similar work in the Agency Relations department. For the next two years I had the privilege and duty of travelling across the state visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.

How do you describe your job? I started in Agency Relations, but in June I was offered the position of volunteer coordinator. It was a new position for the food-bank and I played a role in its design, creating systems to track volunteer metrics and managing volunteer recruitment. As well as maintaining those systems on a day to day basis, I work on communicating our volunteer needs through media or visiting with organizations and businesses interested in sending groups to help us.

What’s the toughest thing about it? It’s critical for volunteers to get positive feedback from their experience, to know that what they’ve done is important. For that good reason, many people prefer to volunteer on the front lines handing out groceries to people in need at a pantry or comforting the sickly animals at a humane society. Good Shepherd Food-Bank offers mostly “behind the scenes” type work and volunteers don’t get that direct feedback. It’s tough to communicate how meaningful their role is in the entire hunger-ending network when their swinging boxes around a warehouse. In the end they have to remember that in the short span of an hour they’ve handled enough food to feed hundreds of people and our organization provides a vast majority of food for the entire network in Maine.

The food bank has an elaborate system for sorting food. Does it change how you handle groceries at home? I wish I had staff and volunteers organizing my cupboards, but I don’t. Honestly the only way our organization has affected my eating habits is that it’s introduced me to foods I didn’t know existed. When you work on the sorting line, you see a lot of different food. It can make you hungry; bring a snack with you if you volunteer. I’ll see something at the food-bank and be compelled enough to search for it at my own grocery store to try it.

What have you learned about hunger since you arrived? The causal relationship between hunger and poverty goes both ways. It’s easy to understand how poverty causes hunger, but in many ways hunger causes poverty. When a child goes without food they suffer in school. That can have drastic long-term effects on their success in life. Unfortunately, society judges the poor too harshly. People interpret lethargy as laziness, but in reality their body is coping with a lack of nutrition and many are physically incapable of working harder to get out of their predicament. We enable people to lift themselves out of poverty.

You help people give their time and work every day. What do you tell the regulars about their job? I can’t convey our appreciation to those who come back on a weekly or daily basis. I can regularly tell them “thank you” and we express our gratitude at appreciation events, but I can only hope they fully understand how big their impact has been. Truly, it’s not us they’re helping, but the tens of thousands of people in our state who know what their next meal will be only because we were able to provide it.

What do you tell the people who may donate part of a single day but might never return? A lot of our work is completed thanks to individual volunteers who come in for just an hour or two and never return. We’d love it if you could come back, but just donating an hour of your time can mean feeding hundreds. Your impact is compounded by the size of our organization and the efficiency of our distribution system. If you can only give an hour or two, call me at 782-3554 or e-mail [email protected] and I’ll tell you how you can still help us.

What’s next for you? In regards to work, I’m always interested in optimizing my own impact. If there’s some way I can serve the food-bank or people in need better, I’d like to do it. In the near term: My wife and I were gifted a couple of kayaks and we plan to spend a lot of time this spring and summer at nearby lakes.

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