Lindsey Baker, director of program development at Feeding America, says millions of fond memories flood her thoughts when she recalls her time at Tucson Hebrew Academy. But most important is the powerful feeling of belonging to a community that still resonates today.
“THA gave me a sense of identity and community,” says Baker. “And I think it gives you an educational foundation, a Jewish foundation, but most importantly a community foundation.”
Baker, 31, earned her Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in sociology and psychology, from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., graduating in 2007.
After college, she moved to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program, a yearlong leadership program sponsored by the Congressional Hunger Center, which focuses on community outreach and public policy training designed to eliminate hunger, poverty and racism.
She spent her six-month field placement working for Food & Friends — a D.C.-based nutrition program that provides meal services for local residents living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. She completed her policy training at Feeding America, formerly known as America’s Second Harvest, turning a six-month internship into an eight-year career.
Helping develop Feeding America’s Child Hunger Corps., a program that places extra workers at food banks for two-year contracts in order to better serve the community, was a thrilling experience, says Baker.
“Feeding America is really interested in professional development, and I think it was such a tremendous learning opportunity, to build a program from the ground up,” she says. “I love it and the program’s still going strong.”
While working full-time at the organization’s headquarters, she earned her Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, graduating in June 2015.
Returning to Tucson following the tragic loss of her father and step-mother, Donald and Dawn, in an airplane accident in January, feels bittersweet. And having half of her graduating class from THA visit during the shiva, the traditional period of mourning, was very moving, she says.
“In a really hard, dark time, to have the support of people you’ve known your whole life definitely didn’t go unnoticed,” Baker says.
No matter the setting, Baker always keeps in mind how she wants to show up and how she can give back, she says. While she attributes her community-based way of thinking to her family, she says, THA’s programming certainly reinforced a philanthropic way of life.
“What I was learning from home was also supported and demonstrated by the school that I was attending, and [that] means so much,” she says. “Outside of the academics, there’s really this familial pull to the school. And I think, with that, we realize that we’re all part of something larger.”