Intern Spotlight: Shannon Mai, Food and Nutrition Policy

Pear in Mind: A Blog in the Public Interest

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What drew you to CSPI?

CSPI's mission of driving change for a better food system directly aligned with the difference I want to make in food policy. I saw how becoming an intern could allow me to gain the exposure to food policy work, while allowing me to begin making an impact on current legislation.

Describe a project you worked on at CSPI that you are particularly passionate about or proud of (or several!)

During my time as an intern, I got to work on fact sheets for a school nutrition advocacy toolkit. Specifically, these fact sheets were about better nutrition standards, children having enough time to eat, modernizing kitchen equipment, and providing universal school meals. This project was very special to me because I grew up eating school meals and because of this have a passion for school nutrition. In a way, it was a trip down memory lane working on this project! Part of the work for developing these fact sheets included conducting literature reviews to understand the status of the issue, proposed legislation, and scientific evidence. Since I have a background in dietetics, I was able to use my dietetic internship experience to comprehensively reflect how these policy changes would affect local food systems.

How has CSPI built on your previous experiences?

During undergrad as a dietetics student, I began my policy journey through advocacy.  Meeting with local legislators, I advocated for the safety of patients in my home state, Florida, as well as for a sustainable healthcare system that included adequate coverage for patients with rare inherited genetic metabolic problems. I then continued my training through my dietetic internship at the California State University, Sacramento. This internship focused on health promotion, disease prevention, policy, and advocacy. It was there that I learned about the impact of federal nutrition programs on a local level, as well as nutrition disparities across a diverse population.

In turn, my time at CSPI has built on my previous experiences by involving me in work on federal nutrition policies and in an advocacy group. By taking on this internship, I now have a better understanding of many aspects of advocacy, such as collaborating with teams and other organizations, as well as measuring impact. Working on these fact sheets has improved my writing to be more concise and effective. Having completed this internship, I now know of more resources I can use for my future work in policy.

How have your experiences at CSPI informed your future path?

As a result of this internship, I have been able to discover exactly what I want to do with my path in food policy. Thanks to the supportive staff at CSPI, I had the opportunity to conduct informational interviews to better understand what I want to do in the future. Out of these interviews, I learned that lobbying would be the best fit for my interest in directly impacting legislation. In addition, I see myself as a policy associate/analyst working on projects like the ones I did during my internship here. I look forward to continuing my education with a Master's in Public Health with a Policy concentration and am forever grateful for this invaluable experience here at CSPI.

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