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Community leader and labor activist Cesar Chavez once said that, “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him ... The people who give you their food give you their heart."

As he led the charge on behalf of farmworkers, in a simplified way, the food grown and harvested in our nation's fields and farms was at the root of his work.

Throughout the days and weeks leading up to March 31, 2013, communities around the country will be honoring Cesar's legacy of service by participating in service projects and activities for the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning.

Creating a Resource

In Oregon, one such project is being planned and implemented by a group of AmeriCorps members. And true to the sentiments behind Chavez' words, their project focuses on community-based agriculture and food.

Operating out of the Confluence Environmental Center, 20 AmeriCorps members have planned a project to benefit two local community gardens that serve diverse and/or low-income residents in and around Cornelius, OR. One will be used by community members to grow crops for personal consumption, and the other will be managed by the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health's Cornelius Wellness Center.

AmeriCorps members will serve alongside residents of the community and staff at the wellness center, preparing the ground for planting vegetables and herbs later this spring. Crops grown at this site will be used for nutrition lessons and healthy cooking demonstrations by center staff.

Empowering the Community

For Laura Fralich, this is an extension of work she is already doing. The AmeriCorps member serves at the local non-profit Adelante Mujeres, an organization that offers area women -- many of them low-income Latinas -- the opportunity to learn how to farm crops and go in to business selling these foodstuffs.

This mission was a big part of the draw for Laura, an environmental studies major from Maine. Last year's Chavez Day project was in support of Adelante Mujeres' La Esperanza farm where the lessons and farming take place.

According to Confluence AmeriCorps Program Director Lara Jones, Fralich is one of many dedicated and inspired individuals participating in the program and the day of service. She notes that members “get a lot done because people appreciate and welcome their compassionate approach to community building.” Further, “they are driven to dig deeper into complex issues, to challenge themselves and to build lasting relationships” amongst the other members and within the community.

If food can be the root of change and also a pathway to the heart, the Confluence AmeriCorps members are certainly one testimonial to just how strongly Cesar's words and actions still ring true.