Sean Little joined Feeding America West Michigan’s development team in the fall of 2016. We talk about his job history, his graduate studies, the Hops Against Hunger campaign, and why he’s so impressed by honey badgers.
What do you do here at Feeding America West Michigan?
My prime role is corporate development and finding new avenues for funding in the private sector. Oh, and I get to do awesome stuff like trying to get breweries to do campaigns with us.
Why are you interested in hunger-relief and the food system?
When I started college I worked at Sibley Elementary which was the birthplace of Kids’ Food Basket and they were recipients of Kids’ Food Basket (a large partner agency focusing on child hunger). I myself in college had experienced bouts of, hey I can afford a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and that’s about it. So I know what it’s like. It’s a nonabrasive subject. Everybody needs food.
In addition to being our development associate, you’re also a grad student at GVSU. What are you studying and how does it relate to our work here?
I’m in the Masters of Public Health program. Childhood obesity, food insecurity, food waste, all of these things are in the realm of public health. I’ve had the privilege thus far of being able to delve into areas like food waste, effective community garden initiatives and just in general looking at the correlations between food quality and general health.
Prior to joining our team, you worked with Grand Rapids kids in an after-school program. Did you see food insecurity and financial difficulty affecting those kids?
Definitely. So I was there for about two and a half years and in fact at one point in the summer program we were recipients of sack suppers from Kids’ Food Basket. Our program also offered, depending on if it was summer or during the school year, breakfast and lunch or dinner and a snack. The whole objective was to make sure kids were being fed because it 100 percent affects their ability to learn and develop physically and cognitively.
Time and time again you’d have students come in and if they hadn’t eaten breakfast or hadn’t slept they were falling asleep in the classroom. Nutrition is key to a child’s learning.
What current projects are you most excited about?
My favorite project with one of the coolest names ever is Hops Against Hunger.* We can just say it, Michigan loves beer. We live in Beer City USA, and to be able to tie that in with hunger advocacy and watch it grow is a beautiful thing.
You have to ask, how can I get the most people to know about my cause? Not only are you able to reach a larger demographic, you’re able to shed awareness on your organization in general.
And of course we have to end with an oddball question: If you had the ability to transform into any animal at will, what would it be?
It’s always so hard because I would want to say I’d want to fly on command or I would want to be able to go to the bottom depths of the ocean, but if I really had to think about it, I’d have to choose a honey badger because I’ve seen honey badgers which are tiny little things picking fights with giant bears or getting bitten by poisonous snakes and it doesn’t even phase them. I think that shows resilience.
*Hops Against Hunger is a coalition of Michigan breweries, restaurants, and beer geeks working together with local food banks to solve hunger in our state. The initiative began in West Michigan in 2016 and launches statewide this September.