I work full time at Cigna as a Director in IT and was selected for a three-month fellowship here at Connecticut Foodshare to focus on piloting Feeding America’s OrderAhead grocery ordering tool. From the start, I felt welcomed here like an employee and enjoyed meeting with people in various departments, trying to soak up as much about the world of food banking as I could. This immersion was maximized in a full-time environment, versus the bits and pieces I had gathered over time here as a volunteer.

The most valuable part of my time at Connecticut Foodshare was the visits to partner agencies served by the food bank. Whether I was tagging along on site visits with a dedicated Network Representative, or following a lead for a potential OrderAhead pilot, I heard first-hand from pantry coordinators of challenges they faced during COVID and how they pivoted to continue serving food insecure individuals. I got to see the before and after of multiple spaces which had started in a closet or hallway and expanded to bright and cheery shopping aisles and coolers. I learned something each time I explained how OrderAhead worked, as new questions were asked, and innovative ideas surfaced about how the application could be used to reach people in new ways.

OrderAhead enables agencies to reach their customers in a new way by offering an online shopping experience. On their own time, customers can choose their groceries and select from available pickup time windows. This system can help increase dignity, reduce waste, and allow agencies to offer choice in a COVID-safe manner.

I loved the variety of the work, as my days ranged from conducting a three-hour photo shoot of nonperishable items, to writing a

script for an animated informational video.

I look forward to sharing what I learned with my Cigna colleagues and feel like I have truly made an impact in my community.