Volunteer Profile: Jessie Zheng

Today we are highlighting data analysis volunteer, Jessie Zheng to learn more about her expertise and volunteer role.


How did you get involved with FFEN? How long have you been volunteering with FFEN?


I heard about FFEN from one of my friends in graduate school. I have been volunteering with FFEN for seven months now.


What is your professional background and experience in and how does it relate to your volunteer role?


I studied data science in graduate school, where I learned about cloud computing, machine learning, and reporting metrics, etc. During my volunteer work at FFEN, I applied my skills obtained from school to the role, such as visualization, AWS, and metrics reporting.


What has your engagement or projects you have worked on looked like with FFEN?


Most of the projects I am involved with are creating food shelf analysis reports for different food shelves across Minnesota. The reports calculate the cost, pounds, freight, source, and nutrients. All of these data can be used by food shelves in making better decisions or improving their operation.


How do you see your skill sets and professional experience supporting hunger relief work and food shelf engagements?


Food banks and food shelves operations have always depended on data analysis. By using data analytics techniques, food shelves can keep track of food sources and nutrition needs, and better identify and prioritize the requirements of their communities.


Can you talk about what drew you to volunteer in hunger relief and why it is important to you?


I was an early childhood educator before, where I learned that there are so many kids who aren’t getting enough food and nutrients they need. It not only impairs physical health but also mental health and cognitive development. I felt called to offer help to our community. Once I have the chance, I joined FFEN immediately. This is very important to me when I can utilize my skills in data analytics to help food banks and food shelves. It also makes me connect with more people and gain real-life experience in data analysis.


How has volunteering with FFEN shifted your learning or understanding of your field or hunger relief?


Before volunteering with FFEN, I had little knowledge about hunger relief, different food sources, or how food banks operate. During the first meeting with FFEN, I learned so much about hunger relief and the amazing work that FFEN has been doing. Currently, the company I am working with just started to partner with a food shelf. I also educated my co-workers about hunger relief programs and motivate them to offer help to local communities!

Volunteering with FFEN definitely makes me think about the power of data. It also helps me get hands-on experience with AWS, one of the largest cloud platforms. I also met a group of talented data analysts during the time volunteering with FFEN. Volunteering with FFEN as a data analyst has been one of the best decisions that I’ve made.