Meet PORCH Volunteer Michelle Perry
Michelle Perry’s family came to the U.S. from Uruguay when she was very young. She grew up in Raleigh and moved to the Durham and Chapel Hill area after college in 2015. She and her husband, Collin, have lived in Carrboro since 2017.
Michelle has an M.S. in nutrition and just left the UNC Global Food Research Program after three years. During her time there, she helped to evaluate food policy, such as soda taxes and warning labels on unhealthy food and beverages, in Mexico and Chile to help understand if they change what people purchase at the grocery store and if they improve public health at the population level.
Michelle will soon move to Rhode Island to begin a Ph.D. program in public health at Brown University – she will focus on how social and environmental factors, such as food insecurity and poverty, impact eating behaviors in lower income Hispanic communities. She will also work to develop interventions that target many of the health inequities observed in this population. She is interested in research that will help to better understand these public health problems and inform policy.
Read on to learn more about Michelle – we will miss her, but we appreciate all she has done for PORCH over the past several months.
How did you hear about PORCH, and how long have you been involved?
I have been aware of PORCH for several years, having been involved in various efforts to promote food security in our area. But I started volunteering at the start of 2023 because of my dear friend, Kate Ross. I am so sad to be leaving the area and not being able to participate on a regular basis (but will be back)!
Describe your role with PORCH.
I volunteer during PORCH distributions, helping to check in participants. I greet families, check them in, provide the gift cards, and answer any questions they may have.
What is your favorite part of working with PORCH?
I love being able to connect with my community and to be able to greet and communicate with the families in Spanish and English. The big smiles, the happy children, and the many, many PORCH dogs that come through the pick-up line always brighten my day.
What would you say to someone thinking about getting involved with PORCH?
There are so many different volunteer opportunities at PORCH, so I encourage others to look around and see what shifts might be the best fit for them! There’s everything from check in to heavy lifting during the monthly distributions, as well lots of sorting and packing, so there really is something for everyone.
Why do you think PORCH’s mission is so critical?
I firmly believe that all human beings have a right to access ample, nutritious, culturally-appropriate food. With the extremely high cost of food and the loss of increased pandemic-era SNAP benefits that many families were depending on, programs like PORCH are absolutely essential to meet the needs of families in our community – now more than ever. I am grateful to be able to play a small part in ensuring my neighbors are able to feed their families.
Connecting with individuals in their native languages is so important – this is a core PORCH belief. Can you speak to the importance of that?
For many individuals, language can be a huge barrier to accessing food. Everything from lack of knowledge about the existence of PORCH, to not understanding the sign-up process, to the fear of not being able to communicate with the volunteers when picking up food can all be overcome by having staff and volunteers who speak the native languages of participants. These connections not only address many logistical barriers, but they also create an atmosphere of trust and belonging and signal to participants that PORCH is here to serve them. When participants see themselves represented within the community and are able to communicate effectively and ask questions, they are more likely to share PORCH as a resource to family and friends who may benefit from PORCH services. It is a win-win for our community!