NourishNC Program Director connects to the Spanish community
Fluency in a second language can widen your window into the world. LAMBETH CHALK’s command of Spanish has helped her explore beyond U.S. boundaries and also learn more about her Wilmington community.
“The purpose of learning and speaking a language is to love other people,” she says. “For you to learn another person’s language is to show hospitality here and to be a good stranger elsewhere.”
Chalk has been both a welcoming presence to Spanish speakers new to the community and a good stranger in her travels to Costa Rica and other countries. Those travels opened her eyes and her heart to the world beyond her native Morehead City, a place with “not a lot of diversity,” she says with a laugh.
As an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Chalk majored in Spanish and, more recently, returned to earn a master’s degree there. She stayed on at UNCW to teach Spanish, while also tutoring privately and working part-time at El Cuerpo, a Latino-focused ministry of Christ Community Church in Wilmington.
In December, Chalk became the new program director for NourishNC. She was hired in part because of her Spanish skills, she says.
“One of the professors at UNCW alerted me that (NourishNC) was hiring, and told me they really needed a Spanish speaker because 20% of their clients are Spanish-speaking,” she says. “I had heard great things about NourishNC and was excited that there would be a place for that (capacity) to grow.”
Most referrals of families living with food insecurity come from school social workers, but some names come also from area pediatricians and others who see possible signs of hunger in children. Chalk sees herself as a bridge to those sources, as well as to the community’s Spanish-speaking population. Since she arrived at NourishNC in December, Chalk has been given some projects to reach out to them.
She’s part of NourishNC’s Market on Market, opening the organization’s new facility at 3606 Market St. once a month to middle- and high-school students who shop for their family’s food.
“I’ve been here for two markets now: in December and in January. I used Spanish as much as English. Being able to greet people in their own language and answer their questions – you see a change in their whole demeanor,” she says.
Those conversations are usually with a parent or caregiver while the child shops. When these people’s English skills are limited, their children often serve as translators. Being able to have a direct adult-to-adult conversation in their native language is a welcome change, according to Chalk.
NourishNC doesn’t limit shopping opportunities to its physical facility.
“Our Mobile Market is a mobile version of our Market on Market: bringing food to people who don’t have transportation,” Chalk says. “Some of our emergency boxes are tailored for people who may be living in a hotel right now.”
In late January, NourishNC hosted a Mobile Market during an event at El Cuerpo, where Chalk still has strong ties. She sees more opportunities for taking food into underserved communities, such as through Farmers MarKID, a pop-up farmer’s market where youngsters are given “Nourish Bucks” to spend on fresh produce.
“One of my biggest goals? At Nourish we would love for our volunteers to really represent our clients in terms of language and culture,” she says. “I am reaching out to all different communities in Wilmington to make sure they are all well represented – to get them in here and let them know what we do.
“Another goal is to be a support for our social workers in schools when they need something or have a question. We’re planning some social worker roundtables to get their feedback so we can help them better.”
To view more of photographer Terah Hoobler’s work, go to terahhoobler.com.
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