My name is Marcella Tosetti and as part of the Next Generation Community Leaders program of 2019 through NJHI and Groundwork Elizabeth, we helped residents of our local community learn about and sign up for the SNAP program in New Jersey. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and helps those in need to buy food. We worked at multiple food pantries in our city, as well as community centers to inform people about how the SNAP program can assist them.
We visited local community centers and public housing neighbors. My personal favorite experience was at the Peterstown Community Center, where a special woman there attracted my attention after the first few days of visiting the center. I originally stopped by her table to get to know her and the ladies who sat with her. We spoke about our high school experiences and I even got to see her high school yearbook! She treated me with such kindness and love. She hugged me multiple times and complimented my hair, which she said was beautiful. She held my hand the entire time I sat with her, and we touched on other topics like our favorite breakfast sandwiches, prom dates, and dating. It was a magical time.
We returned to some locations more than a few times, and the best feeling was having people thank us just for providing a little bit of information with open ears and hearts about how this program can help them eat healthier.
We prepared almost a whole year for the program. The month of July, our actual program time, was filled with learning, understanding, and lots of gratitude. We interviewed more than 200 people and completed as many SNAP eligibility screenings as possible. So many people thanked us and realized the benefits of the SNAP program. My teammates and I were able to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes. There were times when our emotions overwhelmed us as we realized that we couldn’t help everyone. I feel good that our team was able to help a number of Elizabeth residents in such a short amount of time. We returned to some locations more than a few times, and the best feeling was having people thank us just for providing a little bit of information with open ears and hearts about how this program can help them eat healthier.
Follow Elizabeth’s Next Generation Community Leaders alumni to see their progress. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders alumni through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.