The NH Food Insecurity AmeriCorps Project is one of four pilot programs of its kind in the country. Conceived in 2020, the project is a partnership between Campus Compact for NH, Volunteer NH, and the NH Food Bank. The goal of the project is to place 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members in regional pockets of the state, focused on food insecurity and meeting the basic needs of individuals and families. The mission of the project is to fight hunger and poverty in NH by joining community partners implementing statewide, collaborative efforts to help people have consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.
Through my service with AmeriCorps I have seen the difference I can make in my community, but I have also seen that systemic poverty is an issue that requires much more than one person or one year of service. Even though I might not solve every issue during my service, I know that I have laid a foundation that others can build upon. My service with AmeriCorps has inspired me to pursue a career of working to change the unjust systems that affect those I now serve.
William Farley, VISTA Leader, NH Food Insecurity Project (NH Food Bank)
Host sites for members serving in the program include institutions of higher education, community-based organizations, and youth-serving organizations. This focus area has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, with more and more families experiencing food insecurity (defined as a household-level economic and social condition of limited access to food). Member service activities include: developing coalitions through community organizing, recruiting and training volunteers, grant writing, marketing and communications around their initiatives, and much more.
After being evacuated from the Peace Corps due to COVID, I was struck by the stark difference in the appreciation of food in the United States compared to Panama, where I was. I began to try and learn as much as I could about food systems. During my self-guided research, I discovered that AmeriCorps VISTA received funding to start a Food Security Pilot Project in New Hampshire.
I chose to serve with AmeriCorps at the University of New Hampshire because it was the perfect opportunity to get my hands dirty and gain experience in the field I had developed such passion for. My favorite part of service has been all the experiential learning that I have obtained by working shoulder to shoulder with all of my coworkers. By working together, we have been able to start a food repurposing kitchen, to help decrease the amount of wasted food from our dining halls, as well as a food pantry. The Cats’ Cupboard, our food pantry, is meant to help combat student food insecurity as well as be a touchpoint to allow students to know about all of the other resources available to them.
Thanks to AmeriCorps, I have been able to have one of the most rewarding working experiences of my life. This has solidified my desire to work on food systems, wasted food, and the policy impacting them. Thanks to this great experience I will be going to graduate school in the fall to further my knowledge, and hopefully my career, in this area. My application would not have been nearly as competitive without this experience and the skills I have been able to take away from it. If you can find an AmeriCorps program that aligns with your interests, there aren’t going to be many better opportunities to impact change and develop professionally.
Paul Young, NH Food Insecurity Project (UNH)