The Food Bank welcomes Abdul R. Ahmed and Wes Gaddie to our team this year. We are very grateful to have each of them here to help us accomplish our mission. Read the interview below to get to know a bit about Abdul and Wes – where they came from, why they care about the issue of hunger and some other fun facts.

Abdul and Wes

Where are you from?

Abdul: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Wes: Texas. I grew up in Corpus Christi and spent the last year living in Lubbock.

What is your favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh?

Abdul: From the rolling hills to the majestic rivers Pittsburgh is a place to explore. The bustling Saturday Strip District, the historic buildings in the East End and the fireworks displays at Pirate games ensure there is never a dull moment in the city of rivers and bridges. Ever since I have moved to Pittsburgh, I have enjoyed learning about the city’s fantastic history. One organization, Urban Hike, takes visitors and locals through neighborhoods to learn in-depth stories about people, buildings and organizations.

Wes: This is the first time that I’ve lived in a city that people actually seem to be proud to live in, which I love. I also really enjoy the fact that there is always something going on, which is a vast departure from the rural Texas city I moved here from.

What program brings you to the Food Bank?

Abdul: I am with the Duquesne University Peace Corps Fellowship program. Currently I am my second year at Duquesne completing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

Wes: I’m with the Emerson National Hunger Fellowship Program, which is a year-long anti-hunger leadership program. The first 6 months are spent working at a field site organization (in my case, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank) and the next 6 months in D.C. working with an organization on public policy issues.

What project/s will you be working on during your time at the Food Bank and what excites you about this project?

Abdul: I will be working with the Government Affairs and Advocacy Team focusing on updating and creating new fact sheets, as well as the Senior Hunger Information Program (SHIP). The SHIP program is seeking volunteers (aka “SHIP mates”) to assist the Food Bank in community education and advocacy efforts. I’m excited about working in advocacy as a bridge between researching the hunger needs in communities and relating them to community members and government officials. My hope is the work I do here will build a number of hunger advocates that could influence policy makers to continue to fight hunger in Pennsylvania.

Wes: The project I’m working on is a statewide website for Pennsylvania that centralizes all of the statistics anti-hunger organizations use, as well as having information for folks that need food assistance. I’m extremely excited about this project because it is meeting a need for anti-hunger organizations and individuals that need food assistance across Pennsylvania. It is a project that will be useful for years to come. It’s quite a luxury to work on a project that other people are excited about and that has a long life span.

Why do you think it’s important for people to get involved in trying to end hunger in this country?

Abdul: Hunger goes beyond ensuring individuals and families have access to food. Our abundant society should not allow anyone to worry if they have the money to buy meals for the next week. There is a stereotype that hunger only affects the poor but hunger and food insecurity can affect any of us. At any moment life can change, a job could be lost or an illness can drain a bank account. I believe our society has a responsibility to help anyone in need during hard times. Ending hunger is about providing security for anyone who faces a difficult time in their life. Being involved with the hunger movement means you are taking a stand to ensure family, friends and neighbors will not be ignored during difficult times in their life.

Wes: I think it’s important that people get involved in trying to end hunger for many reasons. First, because hunger is morally reprehensible. Another reason people should get involved is that hunger is a solvable issue, particularly in a nation with both the economic and agricultural prosperity the United States enjoys. To the point of hunger being a solvable issue, the third reason people should be involved is that, in my opinion, hunger is largely a creation of inadequate public policy which we can control through how we vote and by holding legislators accountable. I think it’s also important, though, to recognize that ending hunger isn’t solely about helping others. That’s an incredibly virtuous sentiment, but it’s crucial that we acknowledge that the existence of hunger has a detrimental impact on everyone, not just those directly experiencing hunger.

Any other fun facts you want to share about yourself?

Abdul: I’m a podcast nerd and enjoy listening to How Stuff Works, Radio Lab and the Moth.

Wes: I am a huge hockey fan and nothing makes me happier than haggling at flea markets.