Last month, 48 individuals from a variety of backgrounds and States took the same oath of office as the President of the United States, thus officially becoming AmeriCorps VISTA members dedicated to fight hunger in the newly established Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps (AHOC). Their job is to increase participation in SNAP. The group consists of 46 AmeriCorps VISTA members, plus two VISTA Leaders, who are spread out among 29 sites in 18 states.
VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America and was created in 1965 as the domestic sister program to the Peace Corps. VISTA members serve full-time, one-year terms in public and non-profit organizations to fight poverty. Thanks to a partnership between the USDA, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), with additional funding from the Walmart Foundation, the VISTA AHOC members will increase SNAP participation by:
- Assembling community leaders and members to identify the barriers to participation in SNAP and other USDA nutrition programs.
- Recruiting, training, and managing volunteers for benefits access at community organizations.
- Raising funds to assist community organizations improve their benefits access programs and outreach activities.
- Increasing access to nutritious food options through outreach for community gardens, Nutrition Education, and utilization of SNAP at farmers markets.
In the weeks since taking the pledge at Pre-Service Orientation in Philadelphia, the VISTAs have recruited dozens of volunteers, expanded benefits access at tax preparation sites, and created maps with healthy food sources, such as farmers markets that welcome SNAP. In the months ahead, the members will work to implement EBT terminals at farmers markets and increase the number of Summer Meals sites. At the end of March, the NYCCAH VISTA members and the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks' AmeriCorps and VISTA members will hold a conference in Columbus, Ohio, about utilizing national service to reduce hunger.
You can also read the VISTA project's blog here: http://antihungercorps.posterous.com/.