Reflections on a Year of National Service

Updated: Jan 18

It's hard to believe that my second AmeriCorps VISTA year is coming to a close. Since January 19, 2021, I have been serving as the Development Assistant here at Second Harvest Food Bank. I have learned so much these past 12 months, both about myself, food banking, and the three counties we serve.


My first year of AmeriCorps was spent at the Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Despite Springfield only being about a half an hour drive away from where I live, I didn't know much about it. Since I worked in development at my previous AmeriCorps position, this job sounded like a perfect fit, and I was, I fact, able to grow a lot professionally this year.


I have also learned a lot about food insecurity through this position. I learned how much food insecurity can affect rural areas and how food deserts limit people's access to fresh, healthy produce. Years of eating unhealthy food can lead to chronic health conditions and high medical bills, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Food banking is about so much more than just feeding people. It's about helping people lead better, healthier lives.


Much of this research was done to write posts for this blog. I created 23 blog posts covering topics such as poverty, hunger, nutrition and SHFB's programs. We focused heavily on how hunger disproportionately affects minorities; including African-Americans, Latino people, the elderly, people with disabilities, as well as women and children. I dug deep into the root causes of poverty and hunger by learning about food justice, a movement that is combatting food insecurity by addressing this country's long history of racial and economic inequality, issues inextricably tied to hunger.


Also for the blog, I interviewed seven Second Harvest staff members and filmed six videos to showcase what they do to fight food insecurity at our organization.


One of my favorite aspects of service was getting to photograph the work we do. I took literally hundreds of photos of our drive-thru distributions at the food bank and in Logan and Champaign Counties, the National Guard at work and their goodbye event, the incredible amount of food that is stored in our warehouse, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland issued a proclamation thanking AmeriCorps members service in Clark County, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine visiting Second Harvest.








Along with Angela, the former Client Engagement VISTA, we hosted Second Harvest's first community event, our Community Harvest Gathering in honor of Hunger Action Month.The event focused on the idea that food is health and the importance of physical fitness. We had many games and activities for kids and adults to get their bodies moving, including two free dance classes. We gave out healthy snacks, produce and raffle items. There were also over a dozen other community organizations present to share resources. This is an every that will now continually annually.



I created dozens of social media posts covering topics including holidays, nutrition, month themes like Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and Eat Better, Eat Together Month. I set up a LinkedIn page for Second Harvest and redid our Twitter profile to improve and expand our online presence. I wrote donor letters and coordinated some passive fundraising events. I participated in two days of service on Martin Luther King Jr. day where my fellow VISTAs and I cleaned a street from trash in Dayton, and Clark County Day of Service where we volunteered in a local community garden.


I had the opportunity to create several videos for Second Harvest. I made a video for our Inaugural Harvest Breakfast, a short video that described all Second Harvest does, five staff interviews, a video about our Home Delivery program, a video about all of our programs, a virtual tour of our warehouse, and a donor thank you video. I am confident this, along with other aspects of my service, will be useful to Second Harvest for years to come.


I would like to thank Ohio Association of Food Banks for trusting me with this opportunity, my former fellow VISTA Angela, everyone at Second Harvest Food Bank--especially Nicholas, Audrey, and Tyra for supporting my work and ideas--and everyone else who has supported me these past couple of years, both professionally and personally.


Food is the most basic need humans have and every person on earth deserves to have enough, healthy food no matter what their circumstances. I strongly recommend joining the fight against food insecurity by volunteering, donating, advocating for legislative reform, and learning about and understanding the institutional causes and roots of poverty.


Volunteer or donate to Second Harvest and watch out for your neighbors. You never know who may be struggling.


Thank you,

Rachel


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