Becca Sufrin’s job is to narrate. Some stories she shares through written words, others via videos. Regardless of the media employed, however, Sufrin, an East End millennial, believes that the tales and messages imparted are critical for listeners to hear.
“Really, in the end, I think that the most powerful tool to empower and engage a community is to tell people’s stories,” said Sufrin, 26. Listening to “what someone has gone through and how that relates to you” ultimately “cultivates empathy,” added the communication and engagement associate at 412 Food Rescue, an organization whose mission is to “prevent perfectly good food from entering the waste stream.”
In overseeing 412 Food Rescue’s social media and digital presence, as well as executing related events, Sufrin strives to relate the doings of food donors, nonprofit partners and volunteers who collaborate on food rescue.
“My role is to tell their story and why they do this and what impact it has had and what it means to them. And to me that’s the most incredible part of this, to hear how passionate people are to be part of this this process with 412 Food Rescue.”
That ability to salvage and satiate is largely because of the organization’s network. Several of the videos, which Sufrin created, explain the involvements and rationale of local do-gooders — transporters who dedicate various amounts of time schlepping food throughout the city. The commonality between them and Sufrin herself is a refusal to adopt any sort of “savior complex.”
“There’s an approach out there that people who are better off or more privileged or more lucky are higher up — quote-unquote higher up — in the social stratification, the systemic placement of what cards they were handed,” Sufrin said. “And so they need to look down and see all these people that are hungry and need to help them and help people that are less than us; and that is not what we are about, that is not the approach to this.
“It’s really about thinking that we all could have been given the hands that anybody else could have been given, and if you are lucky enough to be in a place where you can give back, that’s when we encourage those people to help their neighbors.”
For the Ohio Wesleyan graduate, who grew up in Pittsburgh, those sociological and philosophical determinations were facilitated by earlier undertakings and experiences.
After college, Sufrin returned to the Steel City in the summer of 2014 to begin a two-year fellowship with Repair the World Pittsburgh; and while the organization provides opportunities to be either a food fellow or education fellow, Sufrin was the latter.
Although the experience briefly introduced her to the issue of food insecurity, she gained greater familiarity with various area plights. Through an awareness of local injustices, and under the encouragement of Zack Block, Repair the World Pittsburgh’s executive director, Sufrin became a greater communal advocate.
“She gets what it means to be an ally in the community,” said Block.
At the conclusion of her fellowship, Sufrin took on part-time work with Film Pittsburgh and 412 Food Rescue. Ultimately, her hourly gigs transitioned into full-time employment, and since July 2017, Sufrin has been an integral part of 412 Food Rescue’s operations.
What that chance represents is not lost on Sufrin.
“The opportunity to make this a career, or make it a career path, for me was very lucky and by happenstance,” she said. “Taking action every day to solve a problem or solve the symptoms of a problem, that’s all I want to be doing. I understand that hunger and poverty are systemic and I can only do so much, but I feel like I couldn’t live my life if I wasn’t actively making something better, making something that sucks so much improve at least a little bit.”
In doing her professional part, Sufrin takes the tools of the trade: words, images and data and amalgamates them into stirring stories so that people will be “activated,” she said.
“My approach to creating that content is to try to show that in the end we all want the same things; we all want happiness, we all want family, we want community around us, we want to be able to eat and not have to worry about where our food is coming from, And highlighting that in that context can really encourage people to feel empathy.”
From that sentiment, hopefully, action occurs, she explained.
“I love everything she does. She puts her whole self into her work,” said Block.
But though Sufrin is quick to rattle off organizational figures and accomplishments, she is slow to accept compliments.
“We don’t do this for praise,” she said. “I feel like I’m in a place of privilege where I need to be working toward making things better in our community, and I think that 412 Food Rescue is progressive and active enough in the right places to bring food to people who need it the most.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.