On May 12th, 2017 the URI Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America presented the twelfth Dorothy Shackleton Anti-Hunger Leadership Award to Wilson Flores, a 2017 URI graduate with a major in Health Studies and a concentration in Health Promotion. A resident of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Wilson began working at the Hunger Center as as an outreach worker for the SNAP Outreach Project when he was a junior. SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a federal program that provides benefits to low-income individuals struggling to feed themselves and their families.
As an outreach worker, Wilson was responsible for going out into the community to places like local farmers markets, health centers, pantries and meal sites to help low income Rhode Islanders apply for SNAP and assist them with any other SNAP issues they had. As a result of his work at the Hunger Center, Wilson said that before he started the job, “…I was unaware what potential benefit I would be able to get out of working here. Now two years later there is so much I have learned about the communities in RI and the importance of serving individuals in need. When I started school at URI I was really lost in regards to what I wanted to do and the career I wanted to pursue. When I started working here I quickly realized that I was passionate about serving others and learning about the disparities that affect many individuals and families in the state of Rhode Island. As I leave the Hunger Center I recount the many individuals I was able to speak with and assist through the SNAP food assistance program. I hold the work we do here close to my heart and the people I was able to meet and learn from over the past two years. It has truly been a big portion of my time here at URI and one of the best experiences.”
Flores was surprised and honored to be chose for the Shackleton award. He commented, “it feels great to be recognized for the hard work that Outreach workers like me do on a week to week basis. I honestly was not expecting to receive this prestigious award but I am grateful to be recognized as an individual that truly cares about the communities we serve in RI. The award to me stands as a motivator to continue to care about the communities that I helped serve over these past two years.” Dr. Kathleen Gorman, Director of the Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America concurred saying, “it is an honor to be able to recognize students’ hard work and efforts.” She added, “we have so many wonderful students that it is difficult to choose just one, but Wilson was a great outreach worker who demonstrated passion, effort and diligence!”
Wilson hopes to go back to school in a few years to become a licensed social worker to continue to serve people in the community. Upon graduation, he will be starting a new full time job as a community health advocate at the Providence Community Health Center. He will also continue his work as a shelter assistant at the Crossroads family shelter on the weekends.
The Anti-Hunger Leadership Award is awarded to students who have demonstrated extensive knowledge of hunger and poverty issues and who have used their skills to contribute to the education and outreach activities in the community. The fund was started with a donation from Dorothy Shackleton, a former employee with the RI Department of Human Services.
The URI Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America coordinates Rhode Island’s SNAP Outreach Project through a contract with the RI Department of Human Services with support from the US Department of Agriculture.