MEANS Database was created by passionate youth at the beginning of 2015. Co-founder and Chair of the Board Maria Rose was able to build out the beginnings of MEANS because she was afforded opportunities by adults and institutions who took a chance on her as a teenager. Many of the MEANS staff, past and present, also have come to our work as a result of internships, jobs, and other opportunities they were granted to enter the professional world in a meaningful way, sometimes before the end of high school. Many of us are who we are, and are where we are, because of the adults who took chances on us. Now that we are those adults, we prioritize creating opportunities for the young students many of us once were.

Part of our success in the food recovery space is our ability to attract talented and passionate young adults through our Ambassador Program. This past spring we launched our first all-virtual Ambassador Program. The program was a 10 week internship that highlighted different areas of focus including outreach, grant writing, web development, and marketing. The participants’ work has helped us grow our user base, recover food, and create the very blog you are reading now. The ambassadors received real-world experience working with a nonprofit remotely, where they were able to create connections and develop practical experience working in the nonprofit sector. The ambassadors at MEANS Database don’t do busy work, they are fully integrated into our team to help recover extra food in the United States and build connections across the food system .

This experience has allowed for our former ambassadors to go on to continue working with MEANS Database in a part-time role, or other organizations such as the United Nations Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, and JPMorgan Chase. We consistently hear from past interns how their new supervisors are surprised how much autonomy and responsibility they were given while working with us. Not only do we value the ideas of youth at MEANS, we elevate those ideas and allow space for those ideas to become reality. For example, the Ambassador Program started as an idea from a 19 year old intern and has grown into a cornerstone of our work at MEANS.

Everyone should have access to high-quality internships, regardless of where they are geographically or their family’s income. We have chosen to pay our Ambassador Program participants because we want to ensure that no qualified student or young adult is economically forced to turn down an opportunity that they are passionate about, or one that could advance their career because it doesn’t pay the bills. So many of us at MEANS and so many people in the workforce at large have gotten where we are because of experiences and relationships built at the start of our careers.

As an organization founded by teenagers and early twenty-somethings, we know the importance of youth involvement in the efforts to mitigate food insecurity. In order to develop innovative solutions to the gaps in our food system, we collaborate with ambassadors of all backgrounds to brainstorm and test new food recovery approaches.

That’s why this Giving Tuesday, we will be fundraising to support our Ambassadors Program! By participating in Giving Tuesday, donors will be able to support this program and invest in the future of young professionals interested in food security. You can support this program here