Food Outreach Board Member Adriana Osorio has experienced food insecurity. Now a Workplace Accommodations Partner at Centene Corporation, Adriana grew up in Fairmont City, a small town in Southern Illinois, where most of the population is Mexican American. It was a special community for Adriana where she could grow up in her own culture and the first language was Spanish.
“I grew up very poor, wondering where we were going to get our next meal and not having the resources that we needed. As the youngest child, I sometimes even felt like a burden; if I wasn’t there that would mean our food would be able to stretch out further without me. Hunger is something that I’ve dealt with on a personal level.”
Now, as an adult, Adriana has a passion for giving back to her community. “Growing up without anything and depending on the services of others, I remember getting the cutest little baby doll for Christmas one year and it was the most beautiful, precious thing that I remember getting. And growing up and knowing that a stranger donated that to some organization so I could have that—I want to be that stranger, I want to be that person who gives back, whether that’s direct donations, whether that’s volunteering my time, whether that is being part of organizations that help make decisions to keep nonprofits running and functioning well—that has always been my passion. I’ve made it to where I am today through the great generosity of other people, and so I feel compelled to give back.”
Adriana first heard about Food Outreach in a Focus St. Louis program called Emerging Leaders. Food Outreach Executive Director Julie Lock spoke at one of the sessions about how to get involved with nonprofit work. “Honestly, when Julie came and spoke about her work and what she does, and how important her work is, I knew immediately I had to get involved. I fell in love instantly.”
A phone call with Julie cemented her interest in joining the board, and Adriana knew she had to get involved with Food Outreach. However, she was surprised that her favorite part of being a board member was the work the board does for the employees of Food Outreach. “The work we do for the employees is something I didn’t necessarily anticipate would have such an impact on me. I knew that I wanted to give back to the community and that I wanted to support Food Outreach’s mission and values, but when we do things that impact the incredible employees that work there—knowing that we are really investing in this incredible group of people—that has been my favorite part.”
Her career in Human Resources prepared her for working on employee benefits for Food Outreach. As a Workplace Accommodations Partner, Adriana helps Centene employees with medical conditions or disabilities get the resources they need to succeed in their jobs. “In my job, for example, if there is an employee that is visually impaired, my job is to work with them, their medical provider, and their leadership to see if we are able to provide them with different accommodations—whether it is assisted technology software, workspace modifications, policy modifications, whatever it needs to be to remove their barriers. A lot of people talk about equality, but I believe it’s more valuable to focus on equity—giving people the tools that enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities and be successful in their careers.”
Adriana now lives in southern Illinois with her wife, Erin. Both are avid movie fans, and they were even married in a movie theater complete with a concessions stand. And when she is not inside watching a movie, she is outside in her garden where she has been experimenting with growing different fruits and vegetables.
In addition to working on the board, she also volunteers at Food Outreach. “I love to cook. So I was excited, but also nervous to work in the kitchen. It was an amazing and fun experience even though I ended up with barbeque sauce all over me and broccoli bits in my shoes.”
Looking to the future, Adriana is excited to face (and find solutions to) whatever challenges come along and continuing to provide nutrition support services to our clients. “Food Outreach focuses on people living below the poverty line—that was us. I can sympathize with the fact of not knowing where you’re going to find food, and I can only imagine what it is like when you have cancer or HIV, and so that is really something that spoke to me on a personal level.”