AmeriCorps Launches $2 Million Hunger Pilot
WASHINGTON, D.C. – AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service, today announced the launch of a new food security initiative to create a comprehensive and collaborative approach to hunger. The four awards, totaling $2 million, will support 100 new AmeriCorps VISTA members in New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, and Texas, which are launching new projects or expanding projects to combat the growing hunger crisis.
“The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity for Americans,” said Desiree Tucker-Sorini, director of AmeriCorps VISTA. “The VISTA program is primed to take on this issue, and I am honored to lead our members in this effort. Through these statewide initiatives, we will identify solutions that work, enabling communities to replicate the program across the country so that families no longer have to experience the pangs of hunger."
Feeding America projects that as many as 54 million people could experience food insecurity in 2020, with the impact being felt coast to coast. Through this hunger pilot, AmeriCorps has awarded grants to organizations addressing the impact of hunger in their state in the time of COVID-19. The following organizations will be implementing the projects in each state.
- Maine – The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry will host approximately 25 AmeriCorps VISTA members as part of their Ending Hunger in Maine 2030 initiative. With both short- and long-term goals, their service will focus on: ensuring consistent access to healthy food for all and eliminating root causes of hunger and food insecurity.
- New Hampshire – Campus Compact for New Hampshire, and existing AmeriCorps VISTA project sponsor, will expand its programming with the addition of approximately 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members to support statewide food security efforts.”
- Ohio – The Ohio Association of Foodbanks will utilize 25 AmeriCorps VISTAs for the next year, along with an additional 10 VISTA Summer Associates, as part of their COVID-19 Food Security Response pilot. Throughout their service, these AmeriCorps members will adjust, improve, and expand efforts across Ohio to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on food insecure individuals and the organizations that serve them. The project is also being supported by two AmeriCorps NCCC teams this fall.
- Texas – The Texas Hunger Initiative, a project of Baylor University, will sponsor approximately 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members to establish and support Hunger Free Community Coalitions.
During their service, the AmeriCorps VISTA members will organize community coalitions, sharing information to break down silos between service providers; develop surveys and mapping tools to help local leaders better address food insecurity in an area; write grants and cultivate new relationships with private sector partners to support food banks; recruit and train volunteers to help with food delivery programs; and develop outreach and social media tools to help increase awareness and SNAP enrollment.
This initiative also includes a unique research component. In collaboration with the each of the sponsors, the agency’s Office of Research and Evaluation will create individual case studies for each project to create best practices in addressing statewide food insecurity. This research will inform plans for expanding this to additional states next year.
The AmeriCorps VISTA program has a strong track record of supporting food security initiatives. Each year, roughly 20 percent of VISTA’s 8,000 members serve in roles dedicated to address issues of food security. Many of these VISTAs, along with their fellow AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers, maintain a sustained effort to fight hunger, keep communities safe, and facilitate youth education in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizations have begun recruiting for the new positions announced today. Individuals interested in serving in this new initiative can learn more at AmeriCorps.gov/VISTA.