Briana Alfaro, ’18 (May), MS Food Studies

Briana Alfaro holds a fresh apple in an orchard

An Interview with Briana Alfaro, ’18

Where did you complete your internship and what did it entail?
I completed my internship at the San Diego Food System Alliance, where I was the “Summer Intern.” I collected narratives on accessing public land for the Urban Agriculture Working Group, created an assessment tool to determine whether a restaurant is “healthy” from a food systems perspective, helped to plan a Farm Bill Forum for local stakeholders, and undertook grant research.

What did you enjoy most about your experience?
I enjoyed working for a small organization in which I was able to “wear many hats” and work one-on-one with the Director. Though the paid staff is small, the Alliance comprises dozens of volunteer stakeholders that participate in the success of its initiatives. I enjoyed having access to a diverse set of experts–from dietitians to county employees to citizen activists–to help guide my work. I also greatly enjoyed planning the Farm Bill Forum.

How did this internship prepare you to work in the broad field of Food Studies?
This internship both gave me exposure to collaborative, volunteer-based work. Collaborative work is incremental and challenging, but ultimately rich and rewarding. I learned to be patient, ask questions, to think outside the box, and above all else, to be flexible. Though I came to the Alliance with a critical academic background, it was humbling to understand what is accomplishable, in practice, while working with a broad array of stakeholders.

What’s next for you?
I hope to start a position with the Alliance. The organization is currently working on growing their capacity for advocacy and community engagement, with a few new positions. I hope to be a part of this growth. If that doesn’t work out, I look forward to a research, advocacy and/or community engagement position with another nonprofit.

Any words of wisdom you’d like to add?
Choosing an organization or institution with which to devote your practicum experience can be challenging. I debated the merits in working with a large, established institution or a small organization, like the Alliance. Ultimately, since I wanted to get experience doing more than one activity and wanted to understand how the organization was administered, I found a small organization to be the right fit for my professional goals. I was able to attend whichever meetings I wanted to, take on projects that fit with my scholarly interests and also work side-by-side with the Director. I recommend evaluating your goals when choosing an organization, but also trusting that all experience is good experience. Even if you learn what you don’t like to do, that is still valuable!